AP

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.

AP

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on his way to Manhattan criminal court....

Jennifer Peltz and Michael R. Sisak

Potential jurors called into courtroom for start of Trump’s historic hush-money trial

Former President Donald Trump has arrived at a New York court for the start of jury selection in his hush money case.

2 days ago

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally....

Josh Boak and Jonathan J. Cooper

Trump goes after the judge and prosecutors in his hush money case in last rally before trial begins

Former President Donald Trump spoke about his hush money case at his most recent rally before the trial begins on Monday.

3 days ago

President Joe Biden boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, April 12, 2024, ...

MICHELLE L. PRICE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden will meet with his national security team as fears rise of an Iranian strike against Israel

Biden to meet with national security team and monitor the situation in the Middle East after Iran promises retaliation after a suspected Israeli strike that killed 12 people

4 days ago

FILE - In this July 20, 2017 file photo, former NFL football star O.J. Simpson reacts after learnin...

Associated Press

Executor of O.J. Simpson’s estate plans to fight payout to the families of Brown and Goldman

The executor of O.J. Simpson's estate is working to stop a payout of a $33.5 million judgment from a wrongful death lawsuit filed years ago.

4 days ago

wall street and broad signs shown...

STAN CHOE AP Business Writer

Stock market today: Wall Street falls toward its worst week in months as oil jumps

The nation’s largest bank gave a forecast for a key source of income this year that fell below Wall Street’s estimate.

5 days ago

The Instagram logo is seen on a cell phone in Boston, USA, Oct. 14, 2022....

KELVIN CHAN AP Business Writer

Instagram begins blurring nudity in messages to protect teens and fight sexual extortion

Instagram says it's deploying new tools to protect young people, including a feature that will automatically blur nudity in direct messages.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

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