Armorer in ′Rust′ film set shooting sues prop supplier | Culture | Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 13.01.2022

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Armorer in 'Rust' film set shooting sues prop supplier

A lawsuit in the shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins claims live ammo was given to the film crew without their knowledge.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, armorer for the film 'Rust,' holding guns

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, armorer for the film 'Rust'

Nearly three months after the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western "Rust," the film's armorer has sued the prop supplier, claiming that live ammunition had been provided to the film crew instead of only dummy rounds.

On October 21, during a "Rust" rehearsal  at a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, actor Alec Baldwin was holding a loaded revolver that went off while he was pointing it at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Hutchins died of the gunshot wound. Director Joel Souza  was also injured.

Baldwin has denied pulling the trigger, saying the gun discharged. Both he and Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer who is responsible for firearms, ammunition and training on the film set, have said they had "no idea" why live bullets were present on set when there weren't supposed to be any.

George Stephanopoulos interviews Alec Baldwin around a low coffee table

In an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos (r), Alec Baldwin (l) said he never pulled the trigger

Loaded – but dummy or live?

Gutierrez Reed filed the lawsuit in a New Mexico state district court. The lawsuit blames ammunition supplier Seth Kenney and his PDQ Arm & Prop for providing live rounds in a box that was only supposed to include dummy rounds. Dummy ammunition has no gunpowder and is inert.

"The introduction of live rounds onto the set, which no one anticipated, combined with the rushed and chaotic atmosphere, created a perfect storm for a safety incident," the lawsuit states, adding that Gutierrez Reed loaded the gun with what she believed were six dummy rounds. It also said she had given up control of the gun for 15 minutes before the shooting due to COVID protocols.

Supplier Kenney has said that his company did not provide live ammunition to the set.

Watch video 01:59

Questions over safety on film sets after Hutchins death

Investigation continues

A state investigation into the shooting is ongoing, with New Mexico officials saying it is too early to file any criminal charges, but that they have not ruled out charges against anyone involved, including Baldwin.

As part of the investigation, officials recovered ammunition from the set that included blanks, dummy rounds and what seemed to be live rounds.

In December, state investigators said a weapon rental supplier may have provided "reloaded ammunition" that matched the cartridge suspected to have contained the live round that killed Hutchins. Reloaded ammunition is made up of recycled parts, including bullets.

Investigators have also said the weapons were handled on set with "some complacency."

Waiting on Baldwin's cellphone

In addition to gathering ammo from the set, investigators also obtained a search warrant in December for Baldwin's cell phone in order to examine emails, messages and other information. The warrant said the actor and the armorer had exchanged emails that could prove relevant to the investigation, such as discussions on what type of gun to use. 

However, as of Thursday, officials said they had yet to receive the device. 

"To date, the cell phone has not been turned over to authorities," a news release from the Santa Fe County Cherrif's Office said. It added that a prosecutor was working with Baldwin's lawyer, Aaron Dyer, to obtain it.

Dyer said that officials had not yet received the phone because steps were taken to protect the Baldwin's privacy in matters unrelated to the investigation, but that the device would be turned over this week. He also denied any lack of cooperation on Baldwin's part: "Mr. Baldwin has continued to cooperate with the authorities, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue."

Watch video 03:14

Deadly film accident: Weapons expert Lars Winkelsdorf speaks to DW

cmb/eg (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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