‘Rust’ Ammunition Supplier Seth Kenney Tells Court Accused Armorer’s Father Behind Efforts To Pin Blame On Him For Live Ammo On Set

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Rust ammunition supplier Seth Kenney today said during the involuntary manslaughter trial of armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed that he “started to sense that there were efforts to redistribute blame or the cause of this accident” over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on October 21, 2021.

Kenney asserted Monday that right after the accident, the attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed, as well as the relatively inexperienced armorer’s father 81-year-old veteran movie consultant and sharpshooter Thell Reed, were essentially trying to assert that “the live ammunition on the set of Rust …somehow came through me.”

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“Knowing Thell and having been friends with him for a few years at that point, I know how much he loves his daughter,” Kenney said.

Charged with involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering, Gutierrez-Reed could go to state prison for up to three years if found guilty.

Just before the lunch break, it was read out in court that Kenney declared “sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, well she still didn’t do her f-ing job” on a call with a Santa Fe Sheriff’s department detective soon after the shooting that killed Hutchins and injured Rust director Joel Souza. Afterwards Kenney rejected defense lawyer Jason Bowles’ presumption that he was trying to blame Gutierrez-Reed for the horrible accident at the time.

Seth Kenney testifying March 4 at Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s Rust trial
Seth Kenney testifying March 4 at Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s Rust trial

In Monday morning testimony full of drugs, guns, movie set chaos and more, the prosecution today seemingly saved the best or the worst for near last with the articulate and apparently straightforward Kenney. Depending on what side of the trial you sit on, Kenney either brought vital testimony of how Gutierrez-Reed was not up to the job she had been hired for, or he took the stand to provide powerful protection for himself.

Long a pivotal figure in the Rust tragedy, industry veteran Kenney has been cast as the likely primary source of the live ammunition that ended up on the indie Western’s set by the defense.

Initially the probe by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s department itself viewed Kenney as that potential primary source too, but during their investigation, which has widely been viewed as problematic on many levels, the department found the live rounds in Kenney’s Albuquerque shop did not resemble the ones found on the Rust set.

Also, as testimony today seemed to support, the busy Kenney’s actual presence on the Rust set was rare.

To help and answer questions Kenney said he was there when the Sheriff’s Department executed its search warrant on the prop truck after the October 21, 2021, accident.

As well as providing dummy rounds, blanks and other weapons-related material to Rust, Kenney bought the brand-new Colt .45 that star/producer Alec Baldwin used on the movie. Coming from a “provider” in California, that gun – the one that the recently recharged Baldwin was holding when it shot and killed Hutchins – was designated specifically for use on Rust. Kenney told the court that he provided a single box of 50 Colt .45 dummy rounds that had just come off the prop truck in Texas from Taylor Sheridan’s 1883 series, which Kenney had recently worked on, and was handed over to Rust prop master Sarah Zachery on October 12, 2021.

On his phone to look at old texts between himself and Gutierrez-Reed that the prosecution showed on the screen in the courtroom, Kenney told the court Monday that his last conversation with the inexperienced armorer before the October 21 shooting was a self-described “expletive filled” text October 16 convo. That exchange was “related to an accidental discharge of a blank on the set of Rust,” he said. Calling Gutierrez-Reed “emotional,” Kenney added he felt he was due an apology from the armorer and family friend.

Under questioning from the defense later in the morning, Kenney became a little cagier.

Previously in his testimony, Kenney recounted an earlier text conversation between Gutierrez-Reed and himself. “You just send me out to do these things and don’t teach me / Shame on both of you,” Gutierrez-Reed wrote to Kenney. Later, under questioning from the defense, Kenney admitted he had issues with the daughter of his old friend, but he had no power to fire her from Rust. “It’s not that I wanted her fired, she was doing a horrible job at props … I had mixed feelings about it,” he said. “If I really wanted her fired, I could have gotten her fired.”

Also, the weapons and ammunitions supplier could not give definite dates of when he drove back and forth from the 1883 set in Texas to New Mexico, travels that possibly saw ammo moving from one location to another. Defense lawyer Bowles, who has stated on a number of occasions on TV and in court filings that he believes Kenney was at least in part responsible for the live ammo getting on the Rust set, was more than a little incredulous that the supplier had not been able to nail down those important travel dates two years after the on-set shooting.

Several times during the composed Kenney’s testimony, Special Prosecutor Morrissey and defense attorney Bowles went up to Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer to debate issues of what could and could not be said in open court. As one example, the now dismissed January 2022 lawsuit that Bowles filed for Gutierrez-Reed against Kenney became a matter of contention when Morrissey asked about it.

After both lawyers headed up to the bench, Morrissey simply asked Kenney if the suit was now dismissed. He said yes, and she passed the witness over to the defense — who examined him for a short period before the Judge called the mid-day lunch break.

Among the crew in the church at the Bonanza Creek Ranch set at the time of the shooting that fatal day, Rust still photographer Karen Kuehn took the stand first thing this morning.

In brisk testimony, Kuehn stayed away from offering much perspective on Rust. Instead, the New Mexico resident stated repeatedly that low budget and “lower tier shows” were always looking to cut costs, and Rust was no different in her opinion. As for what went on as the rehearsal was unfolding on the set, Kuehn had a lot of “I don’t recall” responses to the specifics of the incident.

Like the majority of the state’s witness and certainly unlike Kenney, Kuehn gave mainly incremental testimony.

Also, Marissa Poppell, a Crime Scene technician for Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department, returned to the stand Monday. Examining the live ammunition that was found on the Rust set and the ammunition found at supplier Kenney’s shop, Poppell was soundly schooled by the defense. In his examination of the law enforcement official, defense lawyer Bowles confirmed that Poppell’s search of Kenney’s Albuquerque shop was carried out weeks after the October 21, 2021 shootings, with the risk that evidence could have been lost or misfiled over that time

Rebecca Smith, self-described “set mom” and key crafts services, later told the jury of being asked to hold a baggy of “powder” for Gutierrez-Reed powder. Calling herself a “recovering addict,” Smith said that she believed the powder was cocaine. Under questioning, Smith informed the prosecutors and the court that she tossed it into a garbage can in the hotel hallway after she left Gutierrez-Reed’s room. After the shooting, Smith said she received repeated texts from Gutierrez-Reed wanting her “stuff” back.

Smith testified today that she told no one about the incident or the powder because she wanted to stay out of the Rust investigation. In September 2023, Smith received a text from Special Prosecutor Kerri Morrissey seeking information – information that became part of the evidence tampering charge Gutierrez-Reed was hit with after refusing a plea deal offer to provide more on how live rounds got on the Rust set.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case and hand matters over to the defense later Monday. Judge Sommer has said that she hopes to see the three-week long case go to the jury by the end of this week. Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial is set to start on July 9, also in front of Judge Sommer.

Baldwin, who recently entered a not guilty plea to the renewed involuntary manslaughter charge, faces at a maximum of 18 months behind bars and around $5,000 in fines if found guilty.

Picking up from where those two weeks of filming in 2021 tragically ended, Rust was brought back last year without Gutierrez-Reed. The film completed production in Montana with Souza was back as director, and Baldwin as star and producer. The now-finished Rust has been looking for a buyer for months.

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