Family of ‘Rust’ cinematographer Halyna Hutchins responds to sheriff releasing video of her death


The family of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who was accidentally shot on the set of the film “Rust” in New Mexico last year, said it was outraged at the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office for releasing footage of her final moments and has demanded the video be taken down.

In a letter dated Wednesday and addressed to Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, the Hutchins family’s attorney, Brian Panish, accused the local law enforcement agency of trampling “on the constitutional rights of the Hutchins” and doing “irreparable” damage. Panish alleged that the sheriff’s office “promised” to let Halyna Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, “review the materials being publicly released in advance of their dissemination to the press” before “unilaterally” determining that he would be given “less than a business day” to do so early Monday morning, which Panish said was “a wholly inadequate amount of time given the sheer volume of material.”

“But even this arrangement was violated when your office released the materials to the public before releasing the materials to Mr. Hutchins,” Panish wrote in the letter, which was obtained by ABC News. “The first time Mr. Hutchins saw the disturbing and unsettling video of footage of his dying wife lying on the church floor was on Radar Online, an internet website.”

Hours of body camera footage, witness interviews and photos of the crime scene were among the evidence the sheriff’s office released Monday from its ongoing investigation of Halyna Hutchins’ death. Mendoza said his office was required to release the evidence in response to a public records request and was doing so in an effort to be “transparent” in its probe. Shortly after the records were made public, Panish told ABC News in a statement that the family was “surprised by the decision of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office to release such a large amount of evidence today given that the investigation is still ongoing and active.”

In his letter Wednesday, Panish claimed the sheriff’s office was not legally required to release all the files, which he said was “most troubling.” He also criticized the sheriff’s office for not redacting any of Halyna Hutchins’ information that he claims is private and personal.

“The potential consequences are disturbing given how information is used on social media. We fear, for example, that this shocking footage of Andros’ mother dying may be material used by bullies to emotionally abuse him in the future,” Panish wrote, referring to Halyna Hutchins’ 9-year-old son.

“We demand that your office respect Matthew, Halyna, and Andros Hutchins’ constitutional rights of dignity, privacy, respect, and fairness going forward,” he added. “We also demand that your office take down the video footage of Halyna Hutchins dying on the church floor. While the damage of publishing that video is irreparable, taking down the video will end your office’s complicity in causing further harm.”

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

On Oct. 21, actor Alec Baldwin was holding an antique revolver during a dress rehearsal for “Rust” at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe when the firearm discharged a live round, striking Halyna Hutchins in the chest. The bullet that hit her also struck the film’s director, Joel Souza, in the shoulder, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

Hutchins, 42, died after being airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, the state’s only Level 1 trauma center, in critical condition, according to the sheriff’s office and the hospital. Souza, 48, was rushed via ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, according to the sheriff’s office. Actress Frances Fisher, who was cast in “Rust,” wrote on Twitter the next day that Souza was released from the hospital.

Earlier this week, Mendoza said no one has come forward about bringing ammunition to the set but at least one live round was fired from the weapon. The sheriff’s office is awaiting “key” pieces of evidence that it needs to complete its criminal investigation, including firearm and ballistic forensics from the FBI, DNA and latent fingerprint analysis, according to a report from the New Mexico Medical Examiner’s Office and analysis of Baldwin’s cellphone data, which was extracted by investigators in New York’s Suffolk County, according to Mendoza.

In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, the sheriff would not comment on whether Baldwin knew there were live rounds on set but said it is “yet to be determined” whether he is vulnerable to criminal prosecution.

“The key component is also the analysis on the firearm and the FBI report. So once that’s all collected, a thorough report will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office. They’ll make the determination who is responsible, if anyone,” Mendoza said. “This is a lot of information that we’re going to work in conjunction with the D.A.’s office to determine if there is criminal neglect or criminal charges.”

Baldwin, who was starring in and co-produced the Western film, told ABC News in an exclusive interview last year that he “didn’t pull the trigger.” The Hutchins family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a number of parties, including Baldwin and the “Rust” movie production.

ABC News’ Matt Fuhrman, Santina Leuci, Bonnie Mclean and Matt Stone contributed to this report.