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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Dani Anguiano in Los Angeles

Rust armorer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter over fatal film set shooting

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer for the film Rust, has been found guilty for her role in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico film set.

Hutchins was fatally shot by Alec Baldwin while the actor was rehearsing a scene for the neo-western. Baldwin, who also served as a co-producer on the film, was pointing a prop gun at Hutchins during an October 2021 rehearsal when the weapon fired, hitting the 42-year-old and wounding the film’s director, Joel Souza.

A New Mexico jury found Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for ensuring that all firearms on the set were safe, guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors had alleged that the weapons supervisor loaded a fully functioning .45 revolver used by Baldwin with dummy rounds and at least one live round.

“She was negligent, she was careless, she was thoughtless,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey said in the trial’s closing statements.

She described “constant, never-ending safety failures” on the film set and said Gutierrez-Reed showed an “astonishing lack of diligence” with gun safety.

Gutierrez-Reed had also faced a charge of tampering with evidence, but the jury found her not guilty on that count. After the verdict was read, her attorney said Gutierrez-Reed would appeal the conviction.

Gutierrez-Reed, who was taken into custody immediately, faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. She had pleaded not guilty and her attorneys argued that she was being used as a scapegoat in the incident, which they said Baldwin was ultimately responsible for.

Baldwin has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter and is accused of causing Hutchins’s death either by negligence or “total disregard or indifference” for safety. He has pleaded not guilty, and will face his own trial in July.

David Halls, the film’s assistant director, was sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence with unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, 24 hours of community service and a firearms safety class on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. Halls testified for the defense, speaking to Reed’s competence as an armorer and stating that he took responsibility for the shooting.

“I let a safety check pass,” Halls said during his testimony, at times wiping away tears.

The prosecution’s case focused on how a live round of ammunition ended up on the film set and in the prop gun – which was a fully functional firearm – handled by Baldwin. As the film’s armorer, she was tasked with checking each weapon on set and making sure they were safe and free of live ammunition.

Prosecutors argued throughout the trial that Gutierrez-Reed had failed to follow essential safety procedures as was her responsibility and that her work on set was unprofessional and “sloppy” – she allegedly left guns and ammunition unattended and disorganized.

Live rounds of ammunition that Gutierrez-Reed allegedly brought from home were found on set, the prosecution said during the trial.

“We believe that it was the negligent acts and failures of the defendant, Ms Gutierrez, that resulted in both the acts that contributed to Ms Hutchins’ death and to the live rounds being brought on to the set,” prosecutor Jason Lewis said in his opening statement.

The state also claimed that she was using marijuana during the production. Gutierrez-Reed’s defense said that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she brought live rounds on to the set and argued that Hutchins’ death was the result of Baldwin pointing the weapon at the cinematographer.

“It was not in the script for Mr Baldwin to point the weapon,” defense attorney Jason Bowles said. “She didn’t know that Mr Baldwin was going to do what he did.”

“Ms Gutierrez didn’t point that weapon,” he said.

The two-week trial saw dozens of witnesses, including emotional testimony from crew who described a chaotic set where safety was “secondary”.

Crew member Ross Addiego told the jury that the production had been working at “ludicrous speeds” and described Gutierrez-Reed as less professional than other armorers he had worked with. He also said that firearms were left unsecured.

“Two people were injured on a film set. That has affected not only me, that has affected the film industry,” he said.

Souza testified about his experience being shot and spoke the chaotic aftermath of the incident. Gutierrez-Reed apologized to him, he said, and he remained in disbelief over what happened – insisting to medical personnel that there could not have been a real bullet in the gun.

“I just kept saying: ‘You don’t understand,’” he said. “No, no, no – this was a movie set. That’s not possible.”

Gutierrez-Reed did not testify during the trial, but in police interviews shown during the proceedings, she expressed shock over the presence of live rounds on set and insisted she had checked the weapon before it reached Baldwin.

“I wish I would have checked it more,” Gutierrez-Reed said in an October 2021 interview.

The proceedings could have major implications for Baldwin. Witnesses at Gutierrez-Reed’s trial included two firearms experts whose testimony cast doubt on Baldwin’s account of the shooting and his claim that the gun malfunctioned.

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