On March 31, 1993, the 52nd day of a 60-day shooting schedule for The Crow, the scene being filmed was when Lee's character was to walk into his apartment and see his girlfriend being raped by thugs. This would subsequently lead to Eric being brutally killed, along with his girlfriend, by the thugs. Actor Michael Massee, who played one of the villains named Funboy in the movie, was supposed to fire a gun at Lee, as he walked into his apartment with groceries.
Because the movie's second unit team were running behind schedule, it was decided that dummy cartridges — bullets that outwardly appear to be functional, but contain no gunpowder — would be made from real cartridges, which had been brought to the set, earlier in production. Bruce Merlin, an effects technician, dismantled the live cartridges by removing the bullets, emptying out the gunpowder, detonating the primer, and reinserting the bullets. This rendered the cartridges inoperative, but realistic in appearance. Merlin and his propmaster, Daniel Kuttner, took initiative to create some blanks by removing live cartridges, and replacing the gunpowder with firework powder; the bullets were not reinserted.
Later, a cartridge with only a primer and a bullet, was fired in a pistol; this caused the bullet to lodge in the forcing cone of the revolver. When the first unit used this gun to shoot the death scene, the chamber was loaded with blanks which had no bullets. However, there was still the bullet in the barrel, which was propelled out by the blank cartridge's explosion. Consequently, Lee was shot and severely wounded, as cameras were rolling at the Carolco Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina. Seconds later, director Alex Proyas stopped the scene, but Lee remained on the floor. Stuntman (and Lee's friend) Jeff Imada ran over to him with a paramedic, and discovered a thin slit, an inch below to the right of his navel; by this time, Lee had slipped into unconsciousness, and was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered that a bullet was the cause of the damage. They fought for five hours in an attempt to save him, but at 1:04 PM he was pronounced dead.