‘Rust’ armorer likely was hungover when she loaded the gun used in the fatal movie set shooting, prosecutors say
(CNN) — The armorer on the set of the movie “Rust” likely was hungover when she loaded a prop gun used by actor Alec Baldwin that fired a live round of ammunition during a rehearsal, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, prosecutors said in a court filing.
Witnesses told investigators Hannah Gutierrez Reed “was drinking heavily and smoking marijuana in the evenings during the shooting of Rust,” prosecutors said in the Friday filing.
“It is likely that Defendant Gutierrez was hung over when she inserted a live bullet into a gun that she knew was going to be used at some point by an actor while filming a shooting scene with other actors and crew members,” prosecutors said in the filing in response to a May motion by Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys to dismiss an indictment against her.
Gutierrez Reed will plead not guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the October 2021 shooting, an attorney for her has said. Director Joel Souza was injured in the shooting on the New Mexico set.
“The prosecution has so mishandled this case and the case is so weak that they are now resorting to character assassination tactics to further taint the jury pool,” Jason Bowles, an attorney for Gutierrez Reed, said in a statement to CNN about the Friday filing. “This investigation and prosecution has not been about seeking Justice; for them it’s been about finding a convenient scapegoat,” Bowles said.
In the motion to dismiss the indictment against Gutierrez Reed, her attorney claims “the prosecutorial misconduct in this case began at inception and has infected this prosecution at every turn,” citing issues with evidence collection and conflicts of the special prosecutor who stepped down in March, among other concerns.
A final decision on charges against Baldwin would be made before August 8, prosecutors said in the Friday filing.
“The gun and broken sear have been sent to the state’s independent expert for further testing,” the prosecutors said. “If it is determined that the gun did not malfunction, charges against Mr. Baldwin will proceed. The prosecution anticipates making a final charging decision with regard to Mr. Baldwin within the next sixty days.”
CNN has reached out to Baldwin’s representatives for comment on Friday’s filing.
Involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin were dismissed in April due to “new facts” in the case, special prosecutors said, explaining at the time they could not “proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form.”
But the investigation is “active and on-going,” Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis noted, adding, “This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled.”
“We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” Baldwin’s attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro told CNN at the time.
“We fully expect at the end of this process that Hannah will also be exonerated,” attorneys for Gutierrez Reed said in a statement to CNN after Baldwin’s charges were dropped.
Wrongful death lawsuit settled
In an interview with CNN’s Chloe Melas in August, Baldwin placed responsibility for the shooting on Gutierrez Reed and assistant director Dave Halls, who Baldwin accused of not checking the gun before handing it to the actor. Through their respective attorneys, both Gutierrez Reed and Halls accused Baldwin of deflecting blame onto others.
“Someone put a live bullet in the gun who should have known better,” Baldwin said. “That was (Gutierrez Reed’s) job. Her job was to look at the ammunition and put in the dummy round or the blank round, and there wasn’t supposed to be any live rounds on the set.
“There are two people who didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” he added.
Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of “negligent use of a deadly weapon.” His attorney said in August that Baldwin was using him as a scapegoat by shifting blame away from himself.
A district court judge in New Mexico this month approved a settlement agreement in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Hutchins’ family.
The suit, filed against Baldwin – who also served as a producer on the movie – the film’s production companies, its other producers and key members of the crew alleged numerous industry standard violations.
Financial details of the settlement have not been made public. It set up structured annuities that will provide payments to Hutchins’ minor child when he reaches the ages of 18 and 22, the court order states.
As part of the agreement, the movie was to be completed with Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, serving as an executive producer, according to an October statement from him. “Rust” resumed filming in Montana in April, CNN previously reported.