Alec Baldwin's 'willful disregard' for safety 'directly caused' fatal Rust shooting, prosecutors say
Alec Baldwin has officially been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western drama Rust.
As promised earlier this month, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies filed charges Tuesday against the actor-producer and the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. They each face two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Charges for negligent use of a deadly weapon were also filed against Rust assistant director David Halls, who has pleaded no contest and entered into a plea agreement that is pending approval.
A statement of probable cause provided Tuesday paints a picture of the prosecution's case against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed. Prosecutors allege that the two did not follow proper safety protocols in a number of ways. "On the day of the shooting alone, evidence shows that no less than a dozen acts, or omissions of recklessness, occurred in the short time prior to lunch and the time of the shooting, and this does not include the reckless handling of the firearm by Baldwin," the statement says. "Baldwin, by act or omission or failure to act in his position as a producer, directly contributed and/or failed to mitigate numerous reckless and dangerous actions during a very short time period."
Among multiple examples of alleged safety failures, prosecutors contend that because the deadly shooting occurred during a rehearsal, "evidence indicates the scene/shot did not require the weapon to be fired" and, according to consulting armorers, a plastic gun or replica gun should have been used because firing blanks was not required for the rehearsal.
Additionally, prosecutors say evidence shows that Baldwin did not receive proper firearm training ahead of filming and ignored the limited training he was provided. "Statements and evidence show Baldwin was not present for required firearms training prior to the commencement of filming," prosecutors say in the document. "Statements, depositions from OSHA, and evidence show Baldwin was provided only minimal training on firearms, even after Reed requested more training for Baldwin." Prosecutors add that in a deposition taken from Gutierrez-Reed, "she stated Baldwin had very limited training on the cross draw that was required for the scene… and limited training in firearms and how to check his own firearm as to whether it was unloaded or loaded, which Reed felt was very important in his role [in the film]." Furthermore, prosecutors say Gutierrez-Reed stated in her deposition that a scheduled hourlong firearm training session was cut down to 30 minutes and that "Baldwin was distracted and talking on his cell phone to his family" during the lesson.
Also at issue is Baldwin's changing accounts of how the gun was fired, particularly his repeated public claims that he never fired the revolver and that it had just "gone off" itself. "The photos and videos clearly show Baldwin, multiple times, with his finger inside of the trigger guard and on the trigger, while manipulating the hammer and while drawing, pointing, and holstering the revolver," prosecutors assert. The probable cause document also notes that the FBI investigated the gun in question and found that the "analysis clearly showed that the weapon could not 'accidentally fire'; for the weapon to fire, the trigger had to have been depressed/pressed."
Prosecutors allege that Baldwin failed to follow standard industry protocols, such as conducting at least two safety checks with the armorer ahead of the scene to ensure no live rounds were in the gun. Lastly, prosecutors say, whether guided by Hutchins' directions or not, Baldwin broke the first rules of gun safety: "never point a gun at someone you don't intend on shooting" and "always assume a gun is loaded." The probable cause document asserts, "Had Baldwin performed the required safety checks with the armorer, Reed, this tragedy would not have occurred. In addition, if Baldwin had not pointed the gun at Hutchins and [Rust director Joel] Souza, this tragedy would not have occurred."
The document concludes by stating that Badlwin's failure to follow safety protocol "directly caused the fatal shooting." In summary, prosecutors say, "By not receiving the required training on firearms, deviating from the required duties of checking the firearm with the armorer, letting the armorer leave the church against protocol, deviating from the practice of only accepting the firearm from the armorer, not dealing with safety complaints on the set, not making sure the protocol of safety meetings was occurring, putting his finger on the trigger of a real gun, not using a replica firearm for the unscheduled rehearsal, pointing the gun at Hutchins and Souza, and the overall handling of the firearm in a negligent manner, Baldwin acted with willful disregard of the safety of others and in a manner which endangered other people, specifically Hutchins and Souza. Baldwin clearly should have known of the danger of his actions which led to the death of Hutchins."
A representative for Baldwin declined to comment on the charges Tuesday. When the intention to charge him was announced last week, his attorney Luke Nikas said in a statement, "This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins' tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win."
As for Gutierrez-Reed, her probable cause document says she "was ultimately responsible for correcting or mitigating these and any safety violations from cast/crew." The document adds, "In this circumstance, it is common practice (and expected) for any actor handling or firing a weapon to check for safety. The armorer's role is to provide that proper safe handling and management in order for them to do so. Reed not only failed in this regard but was not even present. This ultimately was exaggerated by the weapon being used by Baldwin in an unsafe manner in close proximity to cast and crew ultimately pointing the weapon, in violation of the most cross-industry established safety rule, at Halyna and firing. All these actions knowingly without an armorer present against industry safety standards, practice, and Union regulations."
Jason Bowles, a lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed, said in a statement Tuesday that the probable cause documents show "the district attorney has completely misunderstood the facts and has reached the wrong conclusions." Bowles continued: "Hannah pleaded to provide more firearms training. She was denied and brushed aside. Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props. Hannah asked Halls if they could use a plastic gun for the rehearsal scene, and he said no, wanting a 'real gun.' Hannah asked to be called back into the church if Baldwin was going to use the gun at all and Halls failed to do that. Yet the district attorney has given Halls a 6-month probation misdemeanor and charged Hannah and Baldwin with felony offenses carrying at least five years in prison. The tragedy of this is had Hannah just been called back into the church by Halls, she would have performed the inspection and prevented this tragedy. We will fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty."
Hutchins was fatally shot, and Souza was wounded on Oct. 21, 2021, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe. They were setting up a camera angle as Baldwin held a pistol toward the frame and the gun discharged. Baldwin settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by Hutchins' family, and he's currently suing several crew members on Rust, including Gutierrez-Reed, accusing them of negligence for providing him with a loaded weapon without his knowledge.