Experts and eyewitnesses talk about shortcomings in gun safety

By | March 3, 2024

The process of Rust gun dealer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed continues in Santa Fe, NM, where prosecutors highlight gun abuse on the set of the Western film leading up to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Gutierrez-Reed, 27, who faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter after shooting the film’s star and producer with a gun. Alec Baldwin, was rehearsing, ran off and killed Hutchins on October 21, 2021. The gun contained a live round, which should not have been on set. Baldwin is also charged with involuntary manslaughter and this trial is seen as a precursor to his own, which is set to begin on July 9.

The last

First assistant director David Halls, the safety coordinator on set, testified Thursday that he did not hand the gun to Baldwin as previously stated. He said Gutierrez-Reed passed it on after loading it with dummies and the one live round. Halls admitted he had not carried out a comprehensive security check. He looked at the gun and saw “three or four”, but not all six bullets; Gutierrez-Reed did not spin the barrel.

David Halls, former first assistant director

David Halls, former first assistant director Rusttestifies on February 29. (Gabriela Campos/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool)

Halls, who pleaded no contest last year to a charge of negligence in handling a weapon and served six months of unsupervised probation, said he was not forced to testify under his plea deal. He agreed because it is “important to me that the truth be known.”

Halls, who retired from filmmaking after Hutchins’ death, said he was the first to stand by the cameraman’s side after “the gun went off” in Baldwin’s hand. He choked as he remembered her saying, “I can’t feel my legs.” Hutchins, 42, was pronounced dead after being transported to a local hospital.

He testified that after the gun went off, he found Gutierrez-Reed — who had a second job on the film as a prop assistant and was not present when the shooting occurred — and demanded that she open the gun’s chamber. He said she took out five dolls and the spent casing of the live round.

Halls said he believed the set was safe, despite two previous accidental gunshots. He found Gutierrez-Reed to be knowledgeable about firearms and diligent in her work. He didn’t think Baldwin was rushing the crew.

Alec BaldwinAlec Baldwin

Actor/producer Alec Baldwin is also charged with involuntary manslaughter. His trial is expected to take place this summer.

Previously, film gun maker Bryan Carpenter, who has worked on more than 100 productions, served as an expert witness for the prosecution and pointed out red flags – including numerous instances of improper gun handling – in footage of the Rust set.

While Gutierrez-Reed was present, a stuntman pointed the barrel of a gun toward the faces and backs of actors on set without correction. Gutierrez-Reed was seen holding a shotgun upright by the barrel. Baldwin pointed a gun at the camera crew while explaining what he was going to do in a scene.

There was footage of Baldwin rushing the crew and barking at Gutierrez-Reed to reload a pistol with blanks. She took loose parts out of a fanny pack instead of storing them in a secure box. Then there appeared to be a missed security check before a gun was handed to Baldwin. It also pointed out that Baldwin — who prosecutors say skipped firearms safety sessions — fired blanks too close to the crew, noting that even blanks can eject material and cause injury. Carpenter said additional gunsmiths should have been present at scenes with so many working weapons.

Bryan CarpenterBryan Carpenter

Bryan Carpenter, a firearms safety expert who has worked as a movie gun maker, will testify as a witness for the prosecution on February 29. (Gabriela Campos/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Timmerman told prosecutor Kari Morrissey that a gunsmith should always be present when a “live weapon” is used in a scene because, regardless of any modifications to the weapon, it is real and can fire. He explained that on film sets, most weapons are considered real weapons under Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives standards. The set also uses prop guns, which are inert weapons that cannot fire, and replica guns that look like guns but are not.

Under cross-examination, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney Jason Bowles noted that because it was an independent film, there were no funds for additional gunsmithing and the protocols Carpenter referenced. Bowles got Carpenter to agree that Gutierrez-Reed should have been called to the church set — where the shooting took place — when Baldwin went “off script” with the real gun during rehearsal.

Bowles also suggested that Gutierrez-Reed, who was just starting out in the industry, might be intimidated by confronting an “A-list actor” about his unsafe gun handling. Carpenter made it clear that if someone does not feel able to control the use of firearms on set, they “should never be in a position to do so. You have to be prepared to go home.”

Highlights from the process

Footage of Gutierrez-Reed shows her talking to investigators about how the dummy rounds were stored in her car prior to filming. When asked if she checked the dummies before loading them, she replied “usually.”

The defense obtained the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s lead investigator, Det. Alexandra Hancock, to acknowledge that there was no direct evidence that Gutierrez-Reed brought the live rounds to the set.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was seen on body camera footage the day of the shooting.Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was seen on body camera footage the day of the shooting.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was seen on body camera footage the day of the shooting. (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office)

In his testimony, movie dolly Ross Addiego — who was at the church at the time of the shooting — accused Gutierrez-Reed of leaving guns and ammunition unsecured. He said she looked nothing like the “edgy,” “anal-retentive” gunsmiths he worked with during his 30-year career. He said she was not “serious or professional” and that “safety seemed to come second.” He described the set as a “state of chaos” and “rushed.” On the day of filming, production was two hours behind schedule.

Addiego also testified that he witnessed two accidental discharges of blank bullets on the set prior to the shooting. He went to Halls to express his frustration, saying Halls “ignored me and walked away.” Halls was the person who handed the gun to Baldwin in Gutierrez-Reed’s absence and admitted he had not properly checked it.

Lucien Haag, a weapons expert who analyzed Baldwin’s Colt .45 and ammunition for the prosecution, testified that — contrary to Baldwin’s claim that the gun went off without him pulling the trigger — the firearm was functioning properly before it was sent to the FBI. analysis. As for how the gun was broken, during FBI testing, an investigator hit it with a hammer to see if it would accidentally fire with enough force. At that point, three components of the gun broke.

Haag also testified that the live rounds on set – there were six in total – appeared to be “hand loaded” – or hand-made by an individual, rather than by a commercial manufacturer.

Key handle John Ziello testified that prior to the shooting, he twice saw the ammunition cart – with the weapons turned off – left unattended on the set.

Prosecutor Kari Morrissey, left, and defense attorney Jason Bowles, right, confer with Judge Mary Marlowe SommerProsecutor Kari Morrissey, left, and defense attorney Jason Bowles, right, confer with Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer

Prosecutor Kari Morrissey, left, and defense attorney Jason Bowles, right, confer with Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal via AP, Pool)

Body camera footage from the day of the shooting showed Gutierrez-Reed being told that a bullet was suspected to be in the gun before saying, “Holy f***.” She also called it “the worst day of my life.”

Gutierrez-Reed became visibly upset when graphic photos from Hutchins’ autopsy were shown in court.

Some of Gutierrez-Reed’s texts were entered into evidence, including one in which she referred to smoking marijuana the night before the shooting. Prosecutors said in their opening statements that her carelessness and lack of professionalism led to Hutchins’ death. Gutierrez-Reed also faces a second charge of tampering for allegedly handing a small amount of cocaine to a member of the production the night of the shooting.

Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney said in his opening statement that she has been made a “scapegoat” for mistakes made by Baldwin, the production and others on set. He said Baldwin had not received proper gun safety training and said he should not have pointed the gun at Hutchins.

The trial began on February 21 and is expected to last two weeks.

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