The investigation into the death of Brandon Lee took a dramatic turn yesterday when what appeared to be a .44-caliber bullet was removed from the actor’s body during an autopsy.
Police in Wilmington, N.C., where Lee was killed Wednesday while filming “The Crow,” are still treating the shooting as accidental. Lee’s publicist, however, called for a murder investigation.
The full autopsy report was not released and police said they didn’t know when it would be. Police said a ballistics test will be performed and results are expected to be available early next week.
“We don’t have enough information to make a determination one way or the other,” police captain L.P. Thomas said, referring to the cause of death.
“There’s a lot of rumor and speculation, but there’s nothing to suggest it was anything other than an accident,” said Jeremy Walker, a spokesman for “The Crow’s” production company, Edward Pressman Film Corp.
Lee’s publicist, Alan Nierob of Rogers & Cowan, said he was calling for a murder investigation after the results of the autopsy were disclosed.
“I’m not an attorney, so I don’t know, but they’d have to be investigating murder,” Nierob said. “It’s no longer believed to be a special effect gone wrong.”
In light of Lee’s death, production of “The Crow” was immediately suspended.
Lee, the 28-year-old son of actor Bruce Lee, died Wednesday afternoon after being struck in the abdomen by a bullet or bullet fragment fired from a gun rigged to shoot blanks. He was on the sound stages of Carolco Studios, starring in “The Crow” as a murdered rock star who comes back to life.
Early speculation centered on a grocery bag carried by Lee that contained a small explosive charge — called a squib — used to simulate effects of gunfire.
As more evidence surfaced yesterday, one theory put forth by Wilmington police detective Rodney Simmons suggested that a dummy slug (without gun powder) was accidentally lodged in the chamber and was discharged by a blank that was loaded later.
The actor who reportedly fired the prop gun, Michael Masee, was portraying a character named Fun Boy.
Officials from domestic distributor Paramount Pictures declined comment again yesterday.
Film publicist Jason Scott said detectives were still investigating the movie set where Lee was shot. As for the future of the production, Scott said, “There are a number of legal, financial and creative decisions that have to be made.”
The incident has rekindled concern about set safety, particularly on non-union films, where working conditions and overtime allegedly are not closely monitored.
One source said the crew was working 15- to 18-hour days. A 12-hour break is customary.
The body of Lee was released to his family after the autopsy. There will be a memorial service Sunday in Los Angeles.