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Mexico probes actor’s on-set death

Thesp Peniche charged with 'careless homicide'

MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities are investigating the Aug. 16 shooting of an extra by an actor using what was supposed to have been a gun loaded with blanks on the set of the direct-to-video pic “Revenge of the Scorpion.”

The extra, 42-year-old Antonio Velasco Gutierrez, was shot twice with a .38-caliber handgun by star Flavio Peniche during filming. He was rushed to a hospital in Cuernavaca, about an hour and a half south of Mexico City, but died shortly after his arrival there.

Peniche, a regular in Mexico’s large “videohome” industry — low-budget action videos generally dealing with gangs, drug traffickers and the like — surrendered to authorities Aug. 17 and was charged with “careless homicide.” He was released Aug. 20 on a 400,000 peso ($37,000) bond.

“We could determine that there was no apparent intent and this can’t be considered a premeditated crime,” said Alejandro Hernandez Arjona, assistant district attorney for Morelos state, where Cuernavaca is situated.

Family won’t press charges

Gutierrez’s family does not plan to press charges against Peniche, according to a statement released by the victim’s niece, adding that the actor had contacted the family to apologize.

The film’s producer and director were also questioned, but police were still looking late last week to interview the pic’s property master, known only by his nickname — “The Brush.” He apparently fled after the incident.

It was initially presumed that the handgun used by Peniche in the scene was loaded with blanks carrying excessive gunpowder, but police investigators later said it was a real bullet that perforated Velasco’s lung.

Union supports thesp

Mexico’s National Assn. of Actors (ANDA) said it would aid in the defense of the accused actor, despite the fact that he hasn’t paid his union dues for two years. ANDA director Juan Imperio said that if the producer of “The Revenge of the Scorpion” had paid his dues as well, there would have been a union representative on set to ensure actors’ safety.

The producer has not yet announced whether the film will be completed.