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'Rust' film armorer found guilty in death of cinematographer

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was working on the set in 2021 when a revolver actor Alec Baldwin was holding fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Luis Sánchez Saturno
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Getty Images
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was working on the set in 2021 when a revolver actor Alec Baldwin was holding fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Updated March 6, 2024 at 7:08 PM ET

A jury in New Mexico has found Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer for the film Rust, guilty of involuntary manslaughter. During the criminal trial, prosecutors successfully argued that her negligence and recklessness led to the death of the film's cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, in 2021.

Hutchins was behind the camera when she was shot by a gun held by actor Alec Baldwin while setting up a shot for the Western movie. A bullet killed her and wounded director Joel Souza. Prosecutors said Gutierrez-Reed was to blame for unwittingly bringing at least one live round of ammunition that was loaded into what was supposed to be a prop gun. They argued that she flouted basic safety protocols for handling weapons on the film set.

"This is not a case where Hannah Gutierrez made one mistake," special prosecutor Kari Morrissey said in closing arguments. "This case is about constant, never-ending safety failures that resulted in the death of a human being and nearly killed another."

Morrissey added, "This was a game of Russian roulette every time an actor had a gun with dummies." She said that even though Baldwin was holding the gun that went off, "It is her job to say to an A-list actor, 'Hey, you can't behave that way with those firearms.'"

The jury heard testimony by FBI experts in firearms and crime-scene forensics; the film's firearms supplier said he never supplied live rounds to the film crew. The film's assistant director, David Halls, broke down in tears describing how Hutchins was shot.

Prosecutors also presented evidence trying to show that after the shooting, Gutierrez-Reed handed another crew member a small bag of possible narcotics.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles argued Gutierrez-Reed was unfairly "scapegoated" for the shooting and was the victim of sabotage. "You had a production company on a shoestring budget, an A-list actor calling all the shots," he said in his closing arguments. "In the end, they had someone they could all blame."

Bowles said, "Justice for Halyna does not mean injustice for Hannah. It does not mean they get to steamroll her and get to spin their version of facts and call it truth. Because that's not truth."

Both sides argued in court that as a co-producer of Rust, Baldwin was also to blame for the shooting. Baldwin maintains the bullet fired without him pulling the trigger and has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter. His criminal trial is set to begin on July 9.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.