By Morgan Lee
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The woman who was overseeing the use of weapons on the movie set where Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer agreed Friday to forgo a preliminary hearing that would have provided court testimony from dozens of people, including eyewitnesses to the shooting.
Arizona-based armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, in a court filing, waived her right to a courtroom review of evidence on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western movie “Rust.” Gutierrez-Reed also waived her right to a review of charges by a grand jury.
Defense attorney Jason Bowles has described Hutchins’ death on Oct. 21, 2021, as a tragic accident and says that Gutierrez-Reed committed no crime. Gutierrez-Reed has not entered a plea to charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence-tempering. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison.
“Rust” safety coordinator and assistant director David Halls has pleaded no contest to a charge of unsafe handling of a firearm and received a suspended sentence of six months’ probation.
In April, prosecutors dropped charges against Baldwin, who was pointing a gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and injuring director Joel Souza.
That left Gutierrez-Reed as the sole remaining defendant.
Baldwin has said the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera. He said he pulled back the hammer — but not the trigger — and the gun fired.
Prosecutors have reserved the right to refile charges against Baldwin as they await additional weapons testing to investigate whether the hammer was intentionally modified.
Authorities have not fully explained how live ammunition found its way onto the film set and into the .45-caliber revolver.
Authorities say Gutierrez-Reed loaded the gun prior to a lunch break with what should have been inert dummy ammunition. Prosecutors say the armorer was negligent amid a breakdown of safety protocols as cast and crew began rehearsing with the weapon — containing a live round — in the early afternoon.
Prosecutors have recently filed the evidence-tampering charge on allegations that Gutierrez-Reed handed off a small bag of narcotics to a colleague amid police interviews on the day of the shooting. Bowles says prosecutors are engaged in “character assassination.”
The filming of “Rust” resumed in April in Montana under an agreement with the cinematographer’s husband, Matthew Hutchins, that makes him an executive producer.
Rust Movie Productions, the company that originally bankrolled the movie, has paid a $100,000 fine to New Mexico workplace safety regulators who issued a scathing narrative of “serious,” but not willful, safety failures, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.
With major productions on hold during the Hollywood writers and actor strikes, no weapons of any kind are being used on those sets for the time being.
Since the fatal shooting on “Rust,” there has been a significant industry shift toward replacing real guns that fire blanks with replicas and digital-effects gunfire. But moves that some supported — including gun bans via legislation, studio requirements or union demands — have not happened.