(Originally published on Oct. 26, 2021)By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A vital crew member on the New Mexico film set where a woman was killed last week has deep Minnesota ties.

Dave Halls, the assistant director on the movie “Rust,” lived and worked in Minnesota for many years.

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Court records say that Halls handed the actor Alec Baldwin a prop gun after shouting “cold gun” — a phrase on sets that means no live rounds.

Baldwin fired the gun during a rehearsal, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and injuring director Joel Souza.

Eric Howell is a Minnesota-based director and stuntman who’s worked with Halls on at least five sets.

“It’s so sad,” Howell said. “It’s brought tears multiple times.”

Halls has credits on several Minnesota films, including “Fargo,” and was on the board of directors of the nonprofit Minnesota Film and Television in 2009.

Howell says he hasn’t worked with Halls more recently than eight years ago.

“Every experience I’ve had with him has been positive,” Howell said. “Every experience I’ve had with him has been safe.”

Dave Halls (credit: IMDB)

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Rocket Soul Studios confirmed that Halls was fired off the 2019 set of a movie called “Freedom’s Path.” One of the film’s producers released this statement:

First of all, our condolences go out to everyone affected by the recent tragic event in New Mexico. I can confirm that Dave Halls was fired from the set of ‘Freedom’s Path’ in 2019 after a crew member incurred a minor and temporary injury when a gun was unexpectedly discharged. Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged. Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time.

A 911 caller on the set of “Rust” blamed Halls for last week’s tragedy, too.

“The f—–g AD … he’s supposed to check the guns, he’s responsible,” the caller said.

Howell does not defend Halls or blame him. He wants to wait for the facts to come out, because his extensive experience on set tells him something like this can only happen through a series of mistakes.

“The safety procedures on multiple levels would have had to have failed,” Howell said. “It’s not one person. It’s a system that failed.”

Howell also explains that an assistant director is in charge of safety.

“Everybody has to be a part of the process of safety,” he said. “[An AD] is accountable for making sure every department is doing their job.”

Halls has not responded to WCCO’s requests for comment.

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While the investigation continues, it’s not yet clear if criminal charges will be filed.

David Schuman