Rust: Trial begins for armourer involved in Alec Baldwin shooting incident

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed arrives at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed arrives at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz with AP
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The trial related to the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin on the set of Rust begins today.


Before actor and producer Alec Baldwin faces a jury, armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will first go on trial over the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust

Hutchins was killed on 21 October 2021 when Baldwin discharged a live gun on the set of the film in Santa Fe. Baldwin was a producer as well as actor in the film, while Gutierrez-Reed was the movie’s weapons supervisor on set.

Gutierrez-Reed has pleaded not guilty to the charges and says she’s not directly to blame for Hutchins’ death. In court filings, lead defence counsel Jason Bowles has pointed to findings by workplace safety regulators of broad problems that extended beyond the armourer's control.

Prosecutors plan to present evidence that Gutierrez-Reed unwittingly brought live ammunition onto a film set where it was expressly prohibited. They say the armourer missed multiple opportunities to ensure safety, eventually loading a live round into the gun that killed Hutchins.

Gutierrez-Reed’s trial will begin later on Thursday with attorneys making opening statements. Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge in a separate case.

Prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis initially dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin in April, saying they were informed the gun might have been modified before the shooting and malfunctioned. A more recent analysis of the gun concluded the “trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver.”

Crime and punishment

Gutierrez-Reed, the stepdaughter of renowned sharpshooter and weapons consultant Thell Reed, was 24 at the time of Hutchins’ death.

She faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 (€4,600) fine if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The evidence tampering charge stems from accusations she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Her attorneys say that charge is prosecutors’ attempt to smear Gutierrez-Reed’s character. The bag was thrown away without testing the contents, defence attorneys said.

The trial is scheduled to run until 6 March, with more than 40 potential witnesses. Baldwin does not appear on a pretrial witness list. His trial date has not yet been set.

Baldwin has said he pulled back the gun’s hammer – not the trigger – and the weapon fired. He was indicted by a grand jury in January.

Aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021 after the shooting
Aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021 after the shootingAP Photo

Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys say she’s unfairly been scapegoated. They contend live rounds arrived on set from an Albuquerque-based supplier of dummy rounds.

Additionally, Gutierrez-Reed is accused in another case of carrying a gun into a bar in downtown Santa Fe in violation of state law. Her attorneys say that charge has been used to try to pressure Gutierrez-Reed into a false confession about the handling of live ammunition on the Rust set.

Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for storage, maintenance and handling of firearms and ammunition on set and for training members of the cast who would be handling firearms, according to state workplace safety regulators.

Live rounds are typically distinguished from dummy rounds by a small hole in the dummy’s brass cartridge, indicating there is no explosive inside or by shaking the round to hear the clatter of a BB that is inserted inside. A missing or dimpled primer at the bottom of the cartridge is another trait of dummy rounds.

The company Rust Movie Productions paid a $100,000 (€92,000) fine to the state following a scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols.

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