Alec Baldwin, gunsmith charged in fatal ‘Rust’ shooting
Citing numerous counts of alleged reckless behavior, security breaches and chaos on the set of “Rust,” New Mexico prosecutors on Tuesday filed manslaughter charges against the film’s star, Alec Baldwin, and gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed.
In the indictment documents released Tuesday, New Mexico prosecutors blamed much of the blame for the tragedy on Baldwin, arguing that he was directly responsible for the shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. If convicted, he and Gutierrez Reed each face a mandatory five-year prison sentence.
In addition to his role as a Western star, Baldwin also acts as a producer responsible for on-set security, prosecutors argued.
“On the day of the shooting alone, evidence shows no fewer than a dozen reckless acts or omissions took place in the short time before lunch and the time of the shooting,” prosecutors wrote in the probable cause statement in support of the allegations against Baldwin .
First assistant director David Halls was also charged with negligent use of a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor. Halls pleaded no contest in exchange for a suspended six-month unsupervised suspended sentence. His plea agreement is pending approval by a judge.
The filings, filed earlier this month by New Mexico’s First Judicial Dist. atty Mary Carmack-Altwies and Special Prosecutor Andrea Reeb provide more details and insights into the high-profile prosecution decisions.
Baldwin declined to comment. The actor has previously denied responsibility for the tragedy, saying Hutchins directed him to point the gun at the crew, he never pulled the trigger and his role as producer is limited to creative choices.
But prosecutors dismissed those arguments.
They listed gun-handling protocols and industry standards that Baldwin allegedly violated, including firing the gun unnecessarily during rehearsal. They claimed the “30 Rock” star was not present for the required firearms training before filming began and was distracted on the phone during the training sessions. They also said he failed to follow standard security checks between the gunsmith and himself and broke protocol by pointing the firearm directly at Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who was also injured.
“Baldwin acted in willful disregard for the safety of others and in a manner that put other people at risk,” prosecutors said.
In addition, prosecutors said Baldwin gave conflicting accounts after the shooting, first telling deputies that he fired the gun but then saying in media interviews that the gun was fired without him firing it. Photos and video show Baldwin with his finger on the trigger, and an FBI analysis showed the gun could not have been accidentally fired, prosecutors said.
In addition, prosecutors criticized Baldwin for hiring Gutierrez Reed, who they felt lacked adequate training and experience, and who was asked to take on other duties beyond her responsibilities as a gunsmith.
In indicting Gutierrez Reed, prosecutors alleged that she was responsible for all firearm safety and failed to address various safety issues that led to the fatal shooting.
“Gutierrez Reed directly contributed to and/or did not mitigate numerous reckless and dangerous acts within a very short period of time,” prosecutors wrote in their probable cause document.
They said that Gutierrez Reed should have taken steps to provide Baldwin with more gun training and correct safety violations, such as pointing the gun at people and finger on the trigger, and criticized her for not being present at the incident during rehearsal was happened.
“Her absence from the set allowed the reckless behavior that led to the fatal shooting to happen and continue,” prosecutors wrote.
Nor did she discharge the firearm in front of Halls and Baldwin, including proving that each bullet was a dummy, as was required of her.
“Reed did not do this and, as a gunsmith, should have demanded that it be done,” they said.
They added that in addition to the spent round, five unspent live bullets were found in various locations and that it was Gutierrez Reed’s job to keep live ammunition off the set.
In a statement, Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys defended her actions, saying she requested additional training and more time to focus on her duties as a gunsmith and that her recommendations, such as using a plastic gun during rehearsal, were dismissed.
“The Probable Cause Statement that was filed shows that the district attorney completely misunderstood the facts and reached the wrong conclusions,” her attorneys Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion said in a statement. “She was rejected and pushed aside. The tragedy is, if Hannah had just been called back to the church by Halls, she would have conducted the inspection and prevented this tragedy. We will fight these allegations and expect a jury to find Hannah not guilty.”
The plans to press charges had already drawn mixed reactions in Hollywood. Several actors, including some from SAG-AFTRA, representing thousands of performers, have railed against the decision, arguing that gun safety is not the actors’ responsibility. Others noted that Baldwin was a producer on the film and may have had better insight into the state of production.
Earlier on the day of the fatal shooting, the camera crew left the set after a dispute over pay and working conditions, including accidental firings.
In the next step after the indictment, each accused is summoned and asked to make a so-called first appearance – similar to an indictment. This can be done virtually, with dates set by the court, prosecutors previously said.
After that, a preliminary hearing takes place, where the judge assumes the role of a grand jury and decides whether the prosecutors can take their case to trial. While the court has yet to set these dates, preliminary hearings are typically held within 60 days of the indictment being filed.
Meanwhile, several members of the production, including Halls and Gutierrez Reed, were recently fired amid an investigation by the New Mexico Department of Environment’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau.
In September, the New Mexico Bureau of Occupational Health and Safety imposed the maximum fine of $136,793 on Rust Productions LLC. It was alleged that production managers had shown “sheer indifference” to employee safety. The production appealed the allegations, saying the penalties were unjustified.
In his testimony, seen by The Times, Halls, who said he has retired from the industry since the incident, gives a different account of the shooting than what Baldwin has publicly provided.
The first deputy director told attorneys in the December affidavit that it was Gutierrez Reed who turned the gun over to Baldwin and he denied shouting “cold gun” to announce the gun was safe to be used.
Instead, he said, it was Gutierrez Reed who used that terminology and handed Baldwin the gun. Halls said he did not see the gunsmith load the gun, but that she showed him the gun already loaded with what he believed to be dummy cartridges.
“Hannah made a creative decision that dummy cartridges should be in there to make sure the gun looks like it’s loaded,” Halls said in a statement first reported by Variety.
This contradicts Baldwin’s account. Baldwin said Halls told him it was a “cold gun,” meaning her cylinder had been checked to make sure it was safe to use and handed it to him.
Halls declined to blame anyone. Halls said it was Hutchins who instructed Baldwin to point the gun in their direction.
“It’s just been a series of tragic mistakes, number one, a round of live ammunition ending up on a movie set, there’s all sorts of things that you can’t pin sole responsibility on one person,” Halls said in the statement.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2023-01-31/santa-fe-district-attorney-files-involuntary-manslaughter-charges-against-baldwin-rust-armorer Alec Baldwin, gunsmith charged in fatal ‘Rust’ shooting