Lee, the 28-year-old son of martial arts icon and legendary screen star Bruce Lee, was killed in a freak accident on the set of “The Crow” March 30, 1993, when fellow actor Michael Massee was supposed to shoot him at close range with a harmless pistol.
But when Massee fired the .44 Magnum revolver, the gunpowder in the blank cartridge ignited a bullet fragment that became embedded in the barrel, propelling it into Lee’s body about 15 feet away at Carolco Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina, The Sun reported.
The fragment was apparently part of a dummy shell that became lodged in the barrel, in what is known as a “squib load,” during a previous scene without anyone realizing. It struck Lee with virtually the same force as a live round.
The actor died on an operating table after six hours of emergency surgery, leaving Massee devastated and prompting him to take a lengthy sabbatical, the New York Times reported in a 2016 article about the character actor’s death from stomach cancer at age 64.
“What happened to Brandon was a tragic accident. It’s something I’m going to live with … It took me the time it took to be able to not so much put it in perspective but to be able to move on with my life,” he told Extra TV in 2005, according to CNN.
“It’s very personal. It’s something that I wanna make sure when I work that it’s never repeated. Therefore, I’m very conscious of things going awry on set,” he added.
The actor played the role of a drug-confused thug in “The Crow,” which featured Lee as a rock musician who returned from the dead to get revenge on the gangsters who murdered him and his fiancée.
After a protracted hiatus, Massee returned to acting and played a terrorist on the hit Fox series “24” and a Satanist murderer on the NBC miniseries “Revelations” in 2005.
After an investigation, District Attorney Jerry Spivey said no criminal charges would be filed over Lee’s death because, while negligence was a factor, there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, the Times reported in 1993.
A negligence lawsuit filed by Lee’s mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, against the studio was eventually settled out of court, the LA Times reported that year.
On Thursday, a union that represents prop masters said in an email seen by Indie Wire that the prop gun used by Baldwin contained a live round.
After the tragic shooting, the devastated actor reportedly asked over and over why he was given a “hot gun” that left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, dead and director Joel Souza, 48, injured on the set of the upcoming Western “Rust.”
“In all my years, I’ve never been handed a hot gun,” the actor allegedly kept saying.
A witness said Baldwin was in shock after the ordeal and “had no idea how badly they were hurt or Halyna was dead.”
Hutchins was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she died from her injuries. Souza has reportedly been released from a hospital.
“Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
No charges were filed as of late Thursday, and detectives are still interviewing witnesses.