'Rust' assistant director David Halls said he 'should have' checked gun more thoroughly before giving it to Alec Baldwin 'but didn't': warrant
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer for the film Rust, says she checked the ammunition prior to Alec Baldwin being given the gun and "ensured they were not 'hot' rounds." But assistant director David Halls, who was supposed to check her work, admitted that he didn't check all her work.
Those were just two new tidbits in the latest search warrant in the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office's investigation into last Thursday's fatal shooting of the indie film's director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, a shooting that also injured the director, Joel Souza. The affidavit reveals what Gutierrez-Reed told detectives about the gun, a Long Colt .45 caliber revolver, and the ammunition. It also includes statements from Halls about how the tragic event played out at Bonanza Creek Ranch.
The document obtained by Yahoo Entertainment states that Gutierrez-Reed "advised on the day of the incident, she checked the 'dummies,'" referring to dummy rounds, which contain no gunpowder or primer cap and are used as stand-ins for real bullets in movies, "and ensured they were not 'hot' rounds."
When the cast and crew broke for lunch, which was off-site, the firearms (three total: the one that shot Hutchins, a nonfunctioning .45 caliber revolver and a plastic nonfunctioning prop gun) were "secured inside a safe on a 'prop truck.'" It was noted that only a few people had access to the safe's combination.
Meanwhile, the ammunition was "left on a cart on the set" and "not secured."
Gutierrez-Reed told detectives that after lunch, prop master Sarah Zachry pulled the firearms out of the safe and handed them to her. She said during the course of filming the movie that she handed the gun to Baldwin a "couple times" and also handed it to Halls.
Gutierrez-Reed told authorities that no live ammo is ever kept on set.
In a previous affidavit, it was noted that Souza said three people typically handle guns on the set. Firearms would first be checked by the film's armorer, in this case, Gutierrez-Reed, before being checked by the assistant director, Halls, who would then gave a firearm to an actor for their scene.
In the new affidavit, Halls told authorities, "I check the barrel for obstructions. Most of the time there's no live fire. [Gutierrez-Reed] opens the hatch and spins the drum, and I say cold gun on set." (Baldwin was told on this day that it was a "cold gun," a previous warrant revealed.)
Halls said Gutierrez-Reed showed him the firearm after lunch before they continued rehearsing and he remembers seeing only three rounds. He admitted he should have checked all of them, but didn't and couldn't recall if she spun the drum, according to the new affidavit.
After the gun was fired — and Hutchins was hit followed by Souza — Halls picked up the firearm from a pew inside the church set and took it to Gutierrez-Reed. She was told to open the gun so he could see what was inside, and the affidavit noted he saw "at least four 'dummy' casings with the hole on the side, and one without the hole. He advised this round did not have the cap on it and was just the casing." (Dummy rounds are sometimes identified by a pierced hole on the side.)
The affidavit also noted that "[Halls] advised the incident was not a deliberate act."
At Wednesday's joint press conference with the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office and the district attorney, Sheriff Adan Mendoza said that Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed and Halls are all cooperating with authorities. However, he said that more questions have risen, so they are hoping for further interviews.
There were some 500 rounds of ammunition — a mix of live, dummy rounds and blanks — found on the set, said the sheriff. The guns as well as the fatal projectile and other ammunition are being sent to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., for analysis, according to the sheriff.
There has been a lot of finger-pointing as this has played out. Rust gaffer Serge Svetnoy, who was next to Hutchins when she was shot, called out producers for trying to "save a dime" by hiring "people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job" of a set armorer. Referring to Gutierrez-Reed, he said, "There is no way a 24-year-old woman can be a professional with armory. Professionals are the people who have spent years on sets, people who know this job from A to Z."
On the podcast Voices of the West last month, Gutierrez-Reed said just finished filming her first movie as head armorer on the western The Old Way, starring Nicolas Cage, and admitted she was "really nervous about it at first."
The daughter of Thell Reed, a shooting expert who has trained actors and has been a film consultant, Gutierrez-Reed also said, "I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready. But doing it, it went really smoothly." She noted that she had been training with guns, under her dad, since she was 16.
Meanwhile, Stu Brumbaugh, who served as key grip on The Old Way, told TheWrap that Gutierrez-Reed upset Cage and other crew members on the set by failing to follow basic gun safety protocols — like announcing to the cast and crew that a gun was about to be fired.
Brumbaugh says that Cage erupted at the armorer after she had made a mistake for the second time in three days, allegedly saying, “Make an announcement, you just blew my f***ing eardrums out!”
After Cage stormed off the set, Brumbaugh said he told the assistant director, "‘She needs to be let go,’ After the second round I was pissed off. We were moving too fast. She’s a rookie.”
However, a producer on the film told the outlet that they "have no such recollection of this event" and said it's being "blown out of proportion.”
Meanwhile Halls, a film veteran and has worked on such movies as Fargo and The Matrix Reloaded, has also been singled out as failing to do his job. After the shooting, Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell made a 911 call and told the operator, according to the released 911 call, that it was the job of the assistant director to check the guns.
There have been complaints made about Halls in the past over safety protocols. He was fired from the set of the film Freedom’s Path in 2019, after a gun unexpectedly discharged, causing a minor injury to a crew member.