‘Rust’ armorer attorneys blame producers for ‘unsafe’ set

Entertainment

FILE – This Oct. 23, 2021, file photo, shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., where actor Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger on a prop gun while filming “Rust” and unwittingly killed a cinematographer and injured a director. Experts predict a tremendous legal fallout. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Attorneys for Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was in charge of weapons on the movie set where Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, say she doesn’t know where the live rounds found there came from, and blamed producers for unsafe working conditions.

Gutierrez Reed was the armorer on the set of “Rust.” The 24-year-old, who had worked on one previous feature film, hasn’t spoken publicly about the accident.

“Ultimately this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced,” said attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence in a statement. “Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from. Hannah and the prop master gained control over the guns and she never witnessed anyone shoot live rounds with these guns and nor would she permit that.”

During a news conference Wednesday, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said there was “some complacency” in how weapons were handled on the set of “Rust.” Investigators found 500 rounds of ammunition — a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and what appeared to be live rounds. Industry experts have said live rounds should never be on set.

Attorneys for Gutierrez Reed said she is “devastated and completely beside herself” over the death of Hutchins. They argued that producers on the film were cutting corners that sacrificed safety.

“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” they said. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons, and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings. This was not the fault of Hannah.”

Veteran prop master Neal W. Zoromski earlier told The Los Angeles Times that he declined an offer to work on “Rust” because producers insisted that one person could serve as both assistant prop master and armorer. Zoromski said those are “two really big jobs” that couldn’t be combined. He called the production “an accident waiting to happen.”

A spokesperson for the producers of “Rust” didn’t immediately respond to emails Friday. They have previously said that they are cooperating with the police investigation.

Others have raised questions about the production. The film’s gaffer, Serge Svetnoy, earlier faulted the movie’s producers for “negligence.”

“To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job,” Svetnoy said in a Facebook post.

On the morning of the shooting, Gutierrez Reed told detectives that she checked the dummy bullets — bullets that appear real, save for a small hole in the side of the casing that identifies them as inoperable — to ensure none were “hot,” according to a search warrant affidavit made public Wednesday.

When the crew broke for lunch, the guns used for filming were locked in a safe inside a large white truck where props were kept, Gutierrez Reed said. The ammunition, however, was left unsecured on a cart. There was additional ammo inside the prop truck.

After lunch, the film’s prop master, Sarah Zachry, removed the guns from the safe and handed them to Gutierrez Reed — Gutierrez Reed told investigators.

According to a search warrant affidavit released last Friday, Gutierrez Reed set three guns on a cart outside the church, and assistant director Dave Halls took one from the cart and handed it to Baldwin. The document released Wednesday said the armorer sometimes handed the gun to Baldwin, and sometimes to Halls.

Halls told investigators that he failed to fully check the revolver. Normally, he told detectives, he would examine the barrel for obstructions and have Gutierrez Reed open the hatch and spin the drum where the bullets go, confirming none of the rounds is live.

This time, he reported, he could only remember seeing three of the rounds, and he didn’t remember if the armorer had spun the drum. He then yelled out “cold gun” to indicate that it was safe to use.

Messages left with Halls haven’t been returned.

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