Testimony in Rust Armorer's Trial Not Great for Baldwin

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Alec Baldwin won't stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges until July at the earliest, but given that he was the one holding the gun when cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on the set of the movie "Rust", his actions have featured prominently in the trial of the movie's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed. 


Reed is also facing an involuntary manslaughter charge, and prosecutors have been painting a picture of lackadaisical safety on the set, where actors and crew members were using the movie's guns for plinking and target practice. It's still not known how a live round made it into the revolver used by Baldwin, but in testimony on Thursday assistant director David Halls recalled that Gutierrez Reed had emptied the revolver and refilled it with what were believed to be dummy rounds before handing the gun to Baldwin. 

“I did not see Ms. Gutierrez take the gun from Mr. Baldwin,” Halls said during questioning by the prosecution, “but she appeared back on my left-hand side and she said that she had put dummy rounds into the revolver.” 

The testimony of Halls, who pleaded no contest last year to negligent use of a firearm and completed six months of unsupervised parole, may weigh significantly as prosecutors reconstruct the chain of events and custody of ammunition that led to the shooting.

He described a rudimentary safety check in which Gutierrez-Reed opened a latch on the revolver and he could see three or four dummy rounds inside that he recognized.

“She took a few steps to Mr. Baldwin and gave ... Baldwin the gun,” Halls testified.

Gutierrez-Reed hasn’t testified but told investigators in the aftermath of the shooting that she left the loaded gun in the hands of Halls and walked out of a makeshift church on the set beforehand. She has pleaded not guilty.


Prosecutors allege that there were multiple points of failure that lead to Hutchins death, including Baldwin's own actions. On Thursday, jurors saw footage from the "Rust" set that showed the actor violating one of the most basic rules of gun safety.

The director called “action,” and Alec Baldwin emerged from a wooden shed and advanced toward the camera, firing shots from an old pistol. As soon as he heard “cut,” the actor wanted to do the take again.“One more! One more! One more! Right away!” Baldwin shouted. “Let’s reload!”

Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the film’s 24-year-old armorer, hurried to put more blanks into his gun. Baldwin was visibly impatient. “Here we go! C’mon,” he said. “We should have two guns and both we’re reloading.” 

... In other scenes, Gutierrez Reed could be seen holding a shotgun upright by the barrel. Carpenter also said that when Baldwin was trying to speed up the reloading of the pistol, she should have slowed things down.

“Rushing with firearms and telling someone to rush with firearms is not normal nor accepted,” Carpenter testified. “In a situation like that, when you’re getting rushed to that extent, that’s when safety starts to fall by the wayside.” 

In another take, Baldwin could be seen lying on his back on the ground, while holding a pistol. He gestured with the gun, explaining to the crew how he was going to get up and fire.

“I don’t want to shoot toward you,” Baldwin said. “I’m going to shoot close to you.”

Asked if he saw anything wrong with the clip, Carpenter said: “He’s using the weapon as a pointing stick.”

At one point, Gutierrez Reed could be heard off-screen warning the crew: “Everyone in the path of the gun please move.”

Carpenter said it appeared that Gutierrez Reed was avoiding addressing the issue with Baldwin.

“She was attempting to not correct Mr. Baldwin, but to try to make the crew move in a more safe position,” Carpenter said.


Gutierrez Reed has yet to testify herself, but it would not be unreasonable to believe that a 24-year-old who was just starting out in the movie business would have been too intimidated to chastise Baldwin for unsafe gun handling, especially given the actor's track record of angry outbursts and his role as the film's producer as well as the star. 

Carpenter told jurors that regardless of the circumstances, Gutierrez Reed still had a job to perform, and if "that is not something you feel capable of doing, you should never step into the position of doing it. You have to be prepared to go home.” 

Given the time constraints of the film and the fact that other crew members had already walked away, allegedly in part because of unsafe working conditions, Gutierrez Reed may have felt pressure to stay on the job or was worried what would happen to her future as an armorer if she went home. That might not justify her actions (or inactions, as the case may be), but it does help to explain them. 

Baldwin, on the other hand, is an industry veteran who has worked with guns on set throughout his career. He should have known better than to use the barrel of a revolver to point with. You should always treat a gun as if it's loaded, and that means never pointing it at anything you're not willing to destroy. Baldwin's on camera blatantly ignoring those fundamental gun safety rules, and with other witnesses adamant that the revolver could not have been fired unless the trigger was pulled, Gutierrez Reed's trial has already been damaging to Baldwin's defense. Though the footage on Thursday was meant to establish that Gutierrez Reed wasn't doing her job properly, I suspect that jurors in Baldwin's trial will also be reviewing the video... at least if Baldwin doesn't take a plea deal between now and July. 


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