‘Rust’ armorer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in shooting

‘Rust’ armorer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in shooting

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the “Rust” armorer accused of failing to ensure gun safety on the set of the low-budget western movie in 2021, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of evidence tampering in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. It was the first trial verdict related to the fatal shooting.

“We will appeal,” said Jason Bowles, Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer, in an email Wednesday night.

The film’s producer and star, Alec Baldwin, was rehearsing with a revolver on the set of the film in October 2021 when the gun went off with live ammunition, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Baldwin, who claims he never pulled the trigger, is scheduled to face trial this summer on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors Jason Lewis and Kari Morrissey said Gutierrez-Reed’s “unprofessional and sloppy” conduct led to her bringing live ammunition on set and ultimately contributing to Hutchins’s death.

The prosecution alleged in court filings that the armorer was possibly hung over while loading the gun, and tampered with evidence by handing drugs to someone else. Rebecca Smith, a food services crew member, said in court Monday that Gutierrez-Reed asked her to hold a baggie with a white substance on the evening of the shooting. Smith threw out the bag of powder, which she assumed was cocaine.

Bowles rejected the claims, saying that the production and the state were using the armorer as a “scapegoat” when the set was chaotic and rife with safety issues.

“They’re trying to blame it all on Hannah, a 24-year-old,” Bowles said. “Because why? Because she’s an easy target. She’s the least powerful person on that set.”

The defense attorney said Gutierrez-Reed was rushed to do two jobs and wasn’t given enough resources to properly oversee the weapons. He also denied that the armorer brought the live rounds on set, and said that Baldwin’s failure to handle the gun safely was to blame for the fatal shooting.

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Seth Kenney, the production’s firearms and ammunition supplier, denied providing live rounds in his testimony Monday, explaining that he personally cleaned and repackaged the dummy rounds. He did have live ammunition at his business, he said, but it was labeled as such and stored for a different production.

Witnesses revealed more details of how the 2021 shooting unfolded during the two-week trial. Ross Addiego, the movie’s dolly grip operator, testified about two accidental weapons discharges on set before the day of the shooting. He said nothing was done after he expressed safety concerns to production supervisors, including David Halls, the film’s first assistant director who agreed to a plea deal for negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Halls broke down in tears during his testimony last Thursday when he said that Gutierrez-Reed handed the revolver to Baldwin. The assistant director acknowledged that he saw only some of the rounds in the weapon during the safety check. He was about three feet away from Hutchins when she was fatally shot.

“She said, ‘I can’t feel my legs,’” he recalled on the stand.

Souza testified in court Friday that he heard a deafening bang and was struck by the same bullet that passed through Hutchins. It “felt like somebody had taken a baseball bat to my shoulder,” he said. He added that after the gun fired, he could see blood on Hutchins’s back, and that Gutierrez-Reed looked distraught before she was yelled at and ushered away. At the hospital, the director couldn’t believe he had been shot with a live bullet on a movie set.

“I kept insisting, it’s just not possible it’s a live round,” Souza said. “It just can’t.”

The armorer faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine after the involuntary-manslaughter conviction, according to the AP.

The case provided a glimpse of what’s to come when Baldwin goes to court July 9 to face his trial in connection with the shooting. New Mexico prosecutors initially filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the actor last year, but they were dropped a few months later as prosecutors said they needed more time to investigate. He was charged again by a grand jury in January.

Baldwin has said that he pulled the gun’s hammer, but not the trigger. A forensics expert who examined the gun for prosecutors last year, however, concluded that the gun couldn’t have gone off without someone pulling or putting pressure on the trigger. The Emmy-winning actor faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

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