Halyna Hutchins’ death may lead to prosecutions

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

The ongoing investigation in the “Rust” movie-set shooting could lead to criminal charges.

By Isaac Dektor, News Editor.

Halyna Hutchins' death occurred after union members walked off the set days earlier. (Graphic Illustration by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

Involuntary manslaughter charges are not off the table for Alec Baldwin and others involved in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Baldwin fatally shot Hutchins during a rehearsal on the set of the movie “Rust” after a live round was left in a prop gun. A “lead projectile” was recovered from director Joel Souza’s shoulder, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza. Authorities believe to have discovered additional live rounds from the set. As the investigation continues, it is unknown how the ammunition got on set. Items of evidence are being analyzed by the FBI.

Hannah Guiterrez-Reed, the 24 year-old armorer for “Rust,” has come under fire for her lack of experience and some have cited reports of additional accidental discharges of prop firearms on the set. An armorer is a crew member on film sets who works under the prop master and is responsible for maintaining any weapons being used.

"Safety is Hannah's number one priority on set,” said Guiterrez-Reed’s attorneys in a statement. “Ultimately this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from.”

The statement continues to assert that Guiterrez-Reed was hired for two positions on “Rust,” which sources within the production of the film disputed, telling NBC News that the inexperienced armorer only worked two days in another department and never had responsibilities overlap as a result.

In a podcast that aired on Sept. 11, Gutierrez-Reed discusses her first film working as a head armorer on the set of “The Old Way” starring Nicholas Cage.

“I was really nervous about it at first and I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but doing it - like it went really smoothly,” said Gutierrez-Reed.

While the up-and-coming armorer is young and lacks experience, her father, Thell Reed, is a prolific armorer and gun specialist that has been working with weapons on films for nearly 30 years.

Other than Baldwin and Guiterrez-Reed, the only crew member who inspected the loaded gun before it was fired was Assistant Director Dave Halls.

Halls reportedly handed the gun to Baldwin after inspecting it and yelling out “cold gun” to indicate the weapon was not loaded. The assistant director has multiple safety complaints from two productions in 2019, according to CNN.

Intent and criminal negligence are the lynchpin for criminal charges to be pursued by the district attorney, according to Jeffrey Harris of the Georgia-based firm “Harris Lowry Manton.”

"I think having live ballistic rounds on a movie set is inexcusable and rises to the level of gross negligence that you see in a criminal charge," said Harris.

While the production of “Rust” adhered to union guidelines, members of the film crew walked off due to what they claimed were unsafe working conditions and lack of housing. The low-budget feature film did not provide housing for local crew members, forcing them to make long drives to and from work following a rigorous shoot day.

Fatal accidents on movie sets are rare but deaths have occurred throughout the history of film production. Brandon Lee, son of actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, was shot on the set of “The Crow” after a bullet became stuck in the .44 Magnum being used by Lee’s co-star, actor Michael Massee. When Massee performs a scene in which he shoots Lee as he enters the room, the blank round projects the bullet at nearly full force, shooting Lee in the stomach.

No charges were filed as a result of Lee’s death.

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