Assistant director says armourer handed gun to Alec Baldwin before fatal shot

1 March 2024, 05:34

Alec Baldwin Set Shooting
Alec Baldwin Set Shooting. Picture: PA

Weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is on trial on charges of manslaughter and evidence tampering.

Testimony in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin has conflicted earlier accounts about a final safety check and exactly who handed the revolver to the actor during rehearsal for the western movie Rust.

Assistant director David Halls, the safety co-ordinator on set, told jurors on Thursday that weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who is on trial on charges of manslaughter and evidence tampering, twice handed the revolver to Mr Baldwin.

It was first emptied of bullets, Mr Halls said, and then loaded again with several dummy rounds and a live round.

Mr Baldwin was pointing the weapon at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when it went off on the movie set ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 20 2021, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin Set Shooting
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armourer on the set of the movie Rust (Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican/AP)

Mr Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer on Rust, was separately indicted by a grand jury last month. His trial is scheduled for July.

“I did not see Ms Gutierrez take the gun from Mr Baldwin,” Mr Halls said during questioning by the prosecution. “But she appeared back on my left-hand side and she said that she had put dummy rounds into the revolver.”

The testimony of Mr Halls, who pleaded no contest last year to negligent use of a firearm and completed six months of unsupervised parole, may weigh significantly as prosecutors reconstruct the chain of events and custody of ammunition that led to the shooting.

He described a rudimentary safety check in which Gutierrez-Reed opened a latch on the revolver and he could see three or four dummy rounds inside.

“She took a few steps to Mr Baldwin and gave… Baldwin the gun,” he told the court.

Gutierrez-Reed has not testified but told investigators she left the loaded gun in the hands of Mr Halls and walked out of a makeshift church on the set beforehand. She has pleaded not guilty.

Alec Baldwin Set Shooting
David Halls testifies during Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s involuntary manslaughter trial (Gabriela Campos/Santa Fe New Mexican/AP)

Mr Baldwin, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in his case, initially told investigators Gutierrez-Reed handed him the gun but later said it was Mr Halls. The actor has said he pulled back the hammer, but not the trigger.

Mr Halls acknowledged on the witnesses stand that he “was negligent in checking the gun properly” because he did not examine all the rounds inside.

His testimony included an account of standing about one metre from Ms Hutchins when the single gunshot rang out. As she was on the ground, he asked if she was all right.

“She said ‘I can’t feel my legs’,” Mr Halls said.

Mr Halls said he left the church to ensure sure someone called 911. He added that he struggled to understand how a live round could have been fired, returning to the church to retrieve the gun from a pew before taking it outside to have it unloaded by a crew member and inspect the ammunition.

“The idea that it was a live round of ammunition that went off… it wasn’t computing,” he said.

Defence attorneys say problems on the set were beyond Gutierrez-Reed’s control and have pointed to shortcomings in the collection of evidence and interviews. They also say the main ammunition supplier was not properly investigated.

Prosecutors say Gutierrez-Reed is to blame for bringing live ammunition on set and she treated basic safety protocols for weapons as optional. They say six live rounds bear identical characteristics and do not match ones seized from the movie’s supplier in Albuquerque.

In other court testimony, a movie props supervisor who helped manage weapons on set said she threw away dummy ammunition rounds from two guns in the immediate aftermath of the shooting while in a state of shock and panic.

Sarah Zachry said she emptied the ammunition into a garbage container from guns that were used by actors other than Mr Baldwin. She called it a “reactive decision” and said she eventually told law enforcement.

By Press Association

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