Negligence or scapegoating? Trial of ‘Rust’ armorer begins in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

Feb 23, 2024, 5:30 AM

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, center, sits with her attorney Jason Bowles, left, during the first day of t...

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, center, sits with her attorney Jason Bowles, left, during the first day of testimony in the trial against her in First District Court, in Santa Fe, N.M., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Gutierrez-Reed, who was working as the armorer on the movie "Rust," when a revolver actor Alec Baldwin was holding fired and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded the film’s director, Joel Souza, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, Pool)

(Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, Pool)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Prosecutors sought to pin blame on a movie weapons supervisor for bringing live ammunition on set and “unprofessional and sloppy” work that contributed to the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin during production of the film “Rust,” as the first trial in the death began Thursday.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was the armorer for the Western movie, has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Oct. 21, 2021, during rehearsal on a movie ranch outside Santa Fe.

Baldwin, who was pointing the gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza, is separately fighting a charge of involuntary manslaughter. No trial date has been set.

Defense attorneys say Gutierrez-Reed is not to blame and is being smeared and unfairly scapegoated. Jason Bowles told jurors that his client had to perform two jobs on “Rust” while being rushed — and that her requests for more resources went unanswered by her manager.

Jurors watched police body camera videos of the harrowing, chaotic scene after the shooting, with medical personnel treating a wounded and semiconscious Hutchins and loading her into an ambulance as a helicopter arrived. A sheriff’s deputy and lieutenant narrated their efforts to corral witnesses, secure ammunition and cordon off the scene on the sprawling movie ranch.

Prosecutors said they plan to present evidence that Gutierrez-Reed unwittingly brought live ammunition onto the set, where it was expressly prohibited, and to show “how these live rounds slowly spread their way throughout the set, eventually landing in several of the actors’ costumes.”

They say the armorer missed multiple opportunities to ensure safety, eventually loading a live round into the gun that killed Hutchins and failing twice to properly check whether bullets in the gun were live or dummies.

“We will show you, ladies and gentlemen, that by failing to make those vital safety checks, the defendant acted negligently and without due caution,” prosecutor Jason Lewis told jurors. “And the decisions that she made that day ultimately contributed to Ms. Hutchins’ death.”

Lead defense counsel Jason Bowles countered by pointing to findings by workplace safety regulators of broad problems that extended beyond the armorer’s control. He contended that live rounds arrived on set from an Albuquerque-based supplier of dummy rounds, and that the supplier was never truly investigated.

Gutierrez-Reed, the stepdaughter of renowned sharpshooter and weapons consultant Thell Reed, was 24 when the shooting occurred.

“What they’ve tried to do, and what you’re seeing in this courtroom today, is trying to blame it all on Hannah, a 24-year-old. Why? Because she’s an easy target, she’s the least powerful person on that set,” Bowles said.

Bowles sought to shift blame for safety failures away from Gutierrez-Reed, and toward Baldwin and his handling of the gun during rehearsal.

“He either had his finger on the trigger and the hammer cocked, or he pulled the trigger, as he was pointing that at Ms. Hutchins and Mr. Souza,” Bowles said. “You’re not going to hear anything about her being in that church or firing that weapon. That was Alec Baldwin.”

Baldwin has said he pulled back the gun’s hammer — not the trigger — and the weapon fired.

Prosecutors initially dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against him in April, saying they were informed the gun might have been modified before the shooting and malfunctioned. But a more recent analysis concluded the “trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” and he was re-indicted in January by a grand jury.

Bowles also said the trial will show that Baldwin did not follow a safety recommendation from Gutierrez-Reed and flouted basic principles of gun safety by pulling out the revolver in a “cross-draw” motion without specific training.

“You’re going to hear that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed specifically requested to train Mr. Baldwin in a cross-draw,” Bowles told jurors. “You’re also going to hear that he did not do that training.”

Prosecutors questioned the sheriff’s deputy and lieutenant about their efforts to secure the scene and preserve evidence, and noted the moment when Gutierrez-Reed handed over the revolver, now emptied of cartridges.

In cross examinations, defense counsel asked whether officers lost sight of a storage cart for ammunition and weapons amid the turmoil and highlighted that witnesses were kept together in a way that conversations might erode reliable testimony.
The trial is scheduled to run through March 6, with more than 40 potential witnesses.

Baldwin, the lead actor and a co-producer on “Rust,” doesn’t appear on pretrial witness lists and could invoke protections against self-incrimination if pressed.

Gutierrez-Reed faces up to 18 months and a $5,000 fine if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The evidence tampering charge stems from accusations that she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection.

Her attorneys say that charge is an attempt to smear her character. The bag was thrown away without testing the contents, defense attorneys said.

In a separate case, Gutierrez-Reed is accused of carrying a gun into a bar in downtown Santa Fe. Her attorneys say that charge was used to try to pressure her into a false confession in the “Rust” case.

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

Dummy rounds are typically distinguished from live bullets by a small hole in their brass cartridge, which indicates there is no explosive material inside, or by shaking the round to hear the clatter of a BB that is inserted inside.

Rust Movie Productions paid a $100,000 fine to the state following a scathing report of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


FILE - Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armorer for the Western film "Rust," listens to closing ar...

MORGAN LEE Associated Press

Movie armorer seeks dismissal of her conviction or new trial in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

'Rust' armorer seeks to dismiss her involuntary manslaughter conviction or convene a new trial after dismissal of Alec Baldwin's case.

6 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service a...


Local officer encountered gunman just before he shot toward Trump at rally, sources tell AP

One local police officer climbed to the roof and encountered the shooter, who pointed his rifle at the officer, AP sources say.

9 days ago

FILE - In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake Cit...

Associated Press

Debate takeaways: Trump confident, even when wrong, Biden halting, even with facts on his side

Thursday’s presidential debate was a re-run that featured two candidates with a combined age of 159, but it went poorly for one of them.

25 days ago

Supreme Court Police officers stand on duty outside of the Supreme Court building on Thursday, June...

MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

The Supreme Court upholds a gun control law intended to protect domestic violence victims

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal gun control law on Friday with intentions to protect domestic violence victims.

1 month ago

A photo taken of Matthew Perry in 2022....

Clayre Scott

Criminal investigation opened in relation to Matthew Perry’s death

A criminal investigation has been opened in relation to Matthew Perry's death due to high levels of ketamine found in his blood.

2 months ago

FILE - The United Nations (UN) headquarters are pictured in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Sept. 9, 2...

EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press

U.N. to vote on resolution that would grant Palestine new rights

The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote Friday on a resolution that would grant new "rights and privileges" to Palestine.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Negligence or scapegoating? Trial of ‘Rust’ armorer begins in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin