Prosecutors announced Thursday that actor Alec Baldwin and a weapons specialist will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 shooting of a cameraman killed on a New Mexico movie set.
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies issued a statement announcing charges against Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who oversaw the guns on set.
Halyna Hutchins died shortly after being injured during rehearsals for the Western film Rust on a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021. Baldwin pointed a gun at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza.
Authorities said deputy director David Halls has signed a plea deal to the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, who led the initial investigation into Hutchins’ death, described “a degree of neglect” on the film set. But he left decisions about possible criminal charges to prosecutors after presenting the results of a years-long investigation in October. That report did not specify how live ammunition ended up on the film set.
Baldwin — known for his roles in 30 Rock and The Hunt for the Red October and his impression of former US President Donald Trump Saturday Night Live — has described the murder as a “tragic accident”.
He attempted to clear his name by suing people involved in handling and delivering the loaded gun handed to him on set. Baldwin, also a co-producer of Rustsaid he was told the gun was safe.
In his lawsuit, Baldwin said that while working on camera angles with Hutchins during rehearsal for a scene, he pointed the gun in her direction and backed off, releasing the gun’s hammer, which went off.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator determined the shooting was accidental after completing an autopsy and review of law enforcement reports.
New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has imposed the maximum fine on Rust Movie Productions, based on a damning story of safety errors, including testimony that production executives took limited or no action to stop two misfires of live ammunition on set prior to the fatality shoot to tackle.
Rust Movie Productions continues to challenge the basis of a $137,000 US fine by regulators who say production managers on set did not follow standard industry protocols for firearm safety.
Armorer under intensive surveillance
The gunsmith who oversaw firearms on set, Gutierrez Reed, has been the subject of much of the investigation in the case, along with an independent ammunition supplier. An attorney for Gutierrez Reed has said she did not put a live bullet in the gun that killed Hutchins, and she believes she was a victim of sabotage. Authorities said they found no evidence of that.
Investigators initially found 500 rounds of ammunition on the movie set on the outskirts of Santa Fe — a mix of blanks, dummy rounds, and what appeared to be live rounds. Industry experts have said live rounds should never be on set.
In April 2022, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department released a trove of records, including lapel camera video of the mortally wounded Hutchins slipping in and out of consciousness as a medical helicopter arrived. Witness interviews, email threads, text conversations, ammunition inventories, and hundreds of photographs rounded out that evidence collection.
State workplace safety regulators said immediate gun safety concerns were then addressed Rust stopped filming, and that a return to filming in New Mexico would come with new safety inspections.
Hutchins’ family – widower Matthew Hutchins and son Andros – settled a lawsuit against producers under an agreement that aims to resume filming with the involvement of Matthew Hutchins as executive producer.
Rust was beset by litigation from its inception in early October 2021. Seven crew members left the set just hours before the fatal shooting amid disagreements over working conditions.
Hutchins’ death influenced the negotiation of safety provisions in union contracts for film crews with Hollywood producers and prompted other filmmakers to choose computer-generated footage of gunfire over real guns with blank ammunition to minimize risk.