How a live round got to Alec Baldwin’s gun -Exclusive
And ‘Rust’ Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed defends herself
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After Alec Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter, I wrote that one of the three unanswered questions in the case was who brought live rounds on the “Rust” set. The authorities now say that they will not solve that aspect of the criminal case.
“We don't know where the live rounds came from--and we may never know,” Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’s spokeswoman Heather Brewer told me. She added:
What we do know is that live rounds were on the set and, due to more than mere negligence on the part of actor/producer Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, a live round ended up in a functional gun, was not noticed due to complacency and noncompliance with basic set safety guidelines, and Halyna Hutchins died.
Carmack-Altwies wrote in the charging documents against Baldwin for shooting and killing Halyna Hutchins that the prime suspect of the lead ammunition was eliminated by FBI forensics.
I showed the D.A.’s response to Reed’s lawyer Jason Bowles. He responded:
It’s shocking that the DA has just given up on trying to investigate or prove where the live rounds came from. There would have been no danger without someone causing live rounds to be on set.
Reed was also charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. She allegedly loaded the Colt .45 revolver and didn’t notice the live round.
Hannah nor anyone else ever shot live rounds on the “Rust” set
David Halls, the assistant director, took the gun from the cart outside the set and gave it to Baldwin. The actor did not check the gun for himself and, for the only time that day, did not ask for Reed to show him the ammo directly.
Halls pled guilty to firearms charges and will testify against Baldwin and Reed.
Suspect No. 1
Carmack-Altwies told the court that her office had eliminated the primary suspect of the live round, Seth Kenney. He owns the company, PDQ Arm & Prop, which supplied the guns and ammunition for the movie.
The sheriff got a search warrant and executed it for Kenney’s company after the Oct. 2021 shooting. (I wrote about it here.) The warrant said Kenny may have brought to the set reloaded live ammunition mixed with the blank and all had a Starline Brass logo. But the D.A. said FBI forensics reported that the total of six live rounds did not come from Kenney.
We don't know where the live rounds came from--and we may never know
Reed is suing Kenney, the prop company owner, over the shooting. I asked Bowles how that suit will be affected now that the prosecutors say they will never have an answer on who got live rounds on set.
“No one has been exonerated as the live round issue hasn’t been fully investigated by the authorities,” Bowles insisted. “Our investigation will continue even if they have given up.”
Target shooting on set
Now that law enforcement said publicly that it will not look for the person who made the deadly mistake, the armorer’s lawyer is putting rumors about his client to rest.
Legitimate media outlets like here, here and here published hearsay that Reed allowed crew members to shoot live rounds for fun. Bowles, who is a former prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office, responded:
Neither Hannah nor anyone else ever shot live rounds on the “Rust” set. That is a malicious, false rumor. Not one witness has come forward to corroborate that.
The public was also led to believe that Reed brought the lead ammo on set from a previous movie. Bowles:
Hannah did not bring the live rounds onto set and has never been in possession of Starline Brass live, reloaded rounds, which were what was found on set.
Gun Safety Rules
The D.A. has made safe gun handling the focal point of her prosecution. Carmack-Altwies told CNN:
Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they’re going to handle that gun, point it at someone and pull the trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone."
Baldwin is charged with breaking all three gun safety rules by putting his finger on the trigger, pointing at a person and not ensuring the armorer checked if the gun was loaded or not in front of him. The D.A said:
An actor does not get a free pass just because they are an actor. That is what is so important. We are saying here in New Mexico, that everyone is equal under the law.
I asked Bowles how his client felt about the D.A. prosecuting for gun safety but not investigating the source of the live rounds. His response:
The DA’s failure to investigate this live round issue is a huge failure.
To really get to the heart of what happened here, to make movie sets safer in the future, you have to investigate how the live rounds ended up on set.
Baldwin blamed the live round
Right after the shooting, Baldwin told sheriff deputies in a video interview:
My wife and six kids in New York to come here for a month to shoot this movie. And I'm the one that shot the gun today -- that had a live bullet go through that woman's body and into his body.
And I need to know how did that happen? Where did that bullet come from?
A month later, Baldwin was asked on ABC News what is an actor’s role in gun safety on a movie set. He answered this way:
There’s only one question to be resolved... Where did the live round come from”
After he was charged, Baldwin’s lawyer Luke Nikas released this statement:
Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.
While we got an answer that completed the missing link in the charging document on the live round mystery, it did not solve the material issue. For such a high-profile case, it seems strange that the origin of six little rounds of ammunition can’t be solved.
Should I now check the source of live rounds off the list of three unanswered questions now that the authorities won’t investigate it?
What do you think about not charging anyone for bringing a live round on set?
What a crock of crap! Everyone has to follow gun safety rules at all times. Baldwin will get off with a slap on the wrist. I hope he’s convicted and jailed so he can think about his actions. I am sick of all these actors who blame everyone for their mistakes and then get off with no consequences for their actions.
It really is a question about how live rounds were available on set. The armorer could have known she loaded blank ammunition in the firearm because usually blank ammunition and live ammunition are distinctive from each other... blank ammunition usually has a crimped point to show that the round only has a powder charge and does not have a solid projectile in the round. Unfortunately without seeing the evidence for myself I am unsure. As to whoever actually loaded the live round...chain of custody of the firearm is in question. It seems that since the police will not willingly determine the chain of custody of the firearm completely, the question of who put the live round in will not be immediately answered.