How Did Live Ammunition Get On The Set Of Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’? The gunsmith’s trial will focus on this.

Santa Fe, New Mexico –

Next week’s scheduled trial of a movie weapons supervisor in Alec Baldwin’s shooting death of a cinematographer may hinge on an enduring mystery: How did live ammunition get to the movie set where it was expressly prohibited?

Investigators recovered six live bullets from a box, a bandolier, a gun belt and other locations on the set of the Western movie “Rust,” including the bullet that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.

Special prosecutors say they will present “substantial evidence” at trial that film gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reed unknowingly brought live bullets to the set when she began working on the film.

They say it includes photos showing there were real bullets on the set days before Hutchins was killed. They also plan to present testimony that, months before the shooting, Gutierrez-Reed had sought out and purchased live .45 caliber ammunition.

“EM. Gutierrez is not charged with intentional homicide, but with negligent homicide,” special prosecutor Kari Morrissey said in a recent court document. “The tragedy occurred due to a series of negligent acts given that the real bullets were on the set “well before October 21, 2021. Their continued negligent acts created numerous opportunities for live bullets to go undetected.”

Gutierrez-Reed pleaded not guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Flimsy is how her lawyers describe the evidence that she may have unknowingly brought real bullets to the set, saying it falls far short of standards for prosecution.

His lawyers also accuse prosecutors of compromising a crucial trial witness by turning over privileged communications about his case to the Albuquerque-based fictitious ammunition supplier for “Rust,” who they claim is the source of real ammunition that reached the set. The civil lawsuit filed by Gutierrez-Reed against ammunition supplier Seth Kenney was dismissed in August and cannot be refiled.

Much of the evidence about the munitions on the set, drawn from sources that include thousands of text messages between members of the “Rust” crew, has not been made public under common pretrial discovery rules.

The trial against the gunsmith has implications for Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer of “Rust.” He has pleaded not guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter and could face trial later this year. “Rust” Deputy Director and Security Coordinator David Halls pleaded no contest to unsafe handling of a firearm and received a suspended six-month probation sentence, agreeing to cooperate in the shooting investigations.

Prosecutors allege that Gutierrez-Reed ultimately loaded a live bullet into the gun that Baldwin fired during the October 2021 rehearsal, killing Hutchins, and that the tragedy was a result of lax ammunition oversight.

Baldwin has said he assumed the gun just had inert bullets inside that can’t fire and that someone else is responsible.

But the indictment against Baldwin provides two alternative standards for prosecution, one based on negligent use of a firearm and another linked to negligence without due caution or “circumspection,” also defined as “complete disregard or indifference to the safety of others”. Legal experts say this latest standard could broaden the investigation beyond Baldwin’s handling of the gun. No date has been set for Baldwin’s possible trial.

“Rust” used an operable revolver. The industry-wide guidance, according to a bulletin that applied to “Rust,” says that “live ammunition should never be used or brought into any studio or setting.” She also says to “treat all firearms as if they are loaded.”

Crew members also say Bonanza Creek Ranch, the film set location where Hutchins was shot, banned live ammunition from its property.

State workplace safety regulators say Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for the storage, maintenance and handling of firearms and ammunition on set and for loading firearms with blanks that have charges but no projectiles, or inert fake bullets.

Real bullets are usually distinguished from fake bullets by a small hole in the dummy’s brass cartridge, indicating that there are no explosives inside, by a missing or dimpled primer on the bottom of the cartridge, or by shaking the bullet to hear the noise of a ball. that is inserted inside.

Live ammunition has reached American movie sets with serious consequences in only a handful of cases.

Actor Brandon Lee died in 1993 after being shot in the abdomen while filming a scene for “The Crow.” Lee was killed by an improvised bullet left in a gun from an earlier scene. The production ended up paying a $55,000 fine to federal regulators.

In 2005, federal regulators fined Greystone Television and Films US$650 after a crew member was shot in the thigh, elbow and hand. It turned out that the balloon-busting shotshells were in the same box as the blanks that were supposed to be used in the rifles.

In New Mexico, a scathing report by state regulators into the “Rust” shooting said the production company failed to develop a process to ensure live bullets were kept away from the set and did not give the gunsmith enough time to thoroughly inventory the bullets. ammunition.

Prosecutors want regulators’ findings kept out of the trial because they could be used to argue that “Rust” management was responsible for the safety failures and not Gutierrez-Reed.

Heated and disparaging exchanges between defense attorneys and prosecutors in recent court appearances include accusations of “vindictive” and unconstitutional prosecution tactics. Special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis are filing additional charges of felony tampering with evidence over allegations that Gutierrez-Reed handed a baggie of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to evade prosecution and took a video of herself bringing a gun into a Santa Fe bar weeks before the fatal shooting.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles says prosecutors are using trumped-up charges to pressure Gutierrez-Reed into making a false confession about the source of live ammunition on the film set.

“The state has always been open to resolving Ms. Gutierrez’s cases,” special prosecutor Morrissey responded in a court filing, “on one condition: that she take responsibility for the fact that she unknowingly brought live ammunition to the ‘Rust’ set. “

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