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Alec Baldwin and ‘Rust’ Armorer Formally Charged in Death of Halyna Hutchins

A "SHERIFF'S OFFICE" sign directs people to the Santa Fe County Public Safety Building in backgroud where you can see people gathered. Two U.S. flags fly from tall poles.
A news conference to update members of the media on the fatal shooting accident on the set of the movie "Rust" on Oct. 27, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
(Sam Wasson
Getty Images )
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New Mexico prosecutors on Tuesday formally charged Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter, saying the actor and the film’s inexperienced armorer were responsible for the fatal shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

About the charges

Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of weapons on the film’s set, were each charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 18 months behind bars.

Baldwin, who both acted in and produced Rust, and Gutierrez-Reed also face an enhancement charge for manslaughter involving a firearm, which has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

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The charges could lead to a trial later this year and cap a lengthy investigation into not only why live ammunition was on the set of the period western, but also why basic film set safety protocols were ignored. Rust assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin a loaded vintage Colt .45 pistol without first checking its chambers, previously entered into a plea agreement.

Filing Details

In the filing on Tuesday, prosecutors included their reasoning in bringing manslaughter charges against Baldwin. They said that Baldwin “failed to appear for mandatory firearms training” before filming and then received limited on-set training because he was talking with his family on his mobile phone.

They allege that Baldwin also failed to demand two safety checks with Gutierrez-Reed about the gun, and also aimed it directly at Hutchins, even though “Baldwin knew the first rule of gun safety is never point a gun at someone you don’t intend on shooting."

Because of those and other instances of Baldwin’s “reckless” behavior — such as his failing to assume the gun was loaded — Baldwin “directly caused the fatal shooting,” prosecutors said.

They also said that in his role as a producer of Rust, Baldwin hired the clearly inexperienced Gutierrez-Reed as the film’s armorer, who had just one such credit to her name beforehand. She had “no certification or certifiable training,” the filing said, and more safety protocols should have been implemented to mitigate her inexperience.

In sum, the filings said, “Baldwin acted with reckless disregard and/or more than mere negligence in this incident” and “acted with willful disregard of the safety of others and in a manner that endangered other people and he clearly should have known the danger of his actions which led to the death of Hutchins.”

What Baldwin has said

Baldwin shot and killed Hutchins, a 42-year-old mother of a young son, during a rehearsal in October 2021. Baldwin has said he didn’t pull the gun’s trigger, an explanation that FBI investigators said was impossible.

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When New Mexico’s First Judicial D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies announced nearly two weeks ago that she planned to file charges against Baldwin, the actor’s attorney, Luke Nikas, said the decision represented “a terrible miscarriage of justice.” Nikas went on to say, “Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set….He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”

Gutierrez-Reed’s role in the shooting

One of those “professionals” was Gutierrez-Reed, who had very limited experience as an armorer. A veteran armorer who had interviewed for the Rust job, Neal W. Zoromski, told the Los Angeles Times that he asked the production for five assistants and was told he could only have one; he passed on the job.

Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion, previously said in a statement that “she did not commit involuntary manslaughter. These charges are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts.”

Investigation uncovered serious shortcomings

Do the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?

In November, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office issued a 551-page report that recounted not only the chain of events that led to Baldwin killing Hutchins, but also of a production rushing to cut corners and skipping typically mandatory safety meetings. Half a dozen members of the film’s camera crew resigned the morning of the fatal shooting, in part over safety concerns.

In a letter to the film’s producers describing why he and his colleagues were quitting, camera assistant Lane Looper said there were no safety meetings after earlier on-set gun discharges, and that scenes involving gun fights were “often played very fast and loose.”

Even Joel Souza, the film’s director who was wounded by the same bullet that killed Hutchins, suggested that in order to save time some stand-alone safety meetings should be replaced with actor briefings while they were putting on makeup and costumes to “push this stuff to move faster,” according to the report.

Rust lighting technician Matthew Hemmer told investigators that Gutierrez-Reed was not qualified or certified, as she was a non-union employee, and previously had asked him for assistance when she was “having issues” with a gun.

What’s next

In the wake of the shooting, some Hollywood guilds and California legislators pushed for stricter gun safety rules, but little came out of the talks.

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John Horn, entertainment reporter and host of our weekly podcast Retake, explores whether the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?

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