Hannah Gutierrez Reed wasn’t the only weapons expert working on ‘Rust.’ Who was the ‘armorer mentor’?
Hannah Gutierrez Reed, 24, wasn’t the only weapons wrangler attached to the western film “Rust,” starring Alec Baldwin.
The film’s producers also had brought in a second gun expert: Seth Kenney, who owns a licensed Lake Havasu City, Ariz., weapons and props rental company. Kenney was added to the “Rust” crew in late September as an “armorer mentor” for Gutierrez Reed, according to an internal “Rust” crew list shared with the Los Angeles Times.
For the record:
3:23 p.m. Dec. 2, 2021“Rust” gun expert: Eleven days after publication of this article, Seth Kenney provided a written statement denying that he was an “armorer mentor” on the “Rust” film production and claiming that the “Rust” production company erroneously listed him on a crew list as the “armorer mentor.” Kenney’s statement confirmed that his company, PDQ Arm & Prop LLC, provided “the guns, Blanks and a portion of Dummy Rounds” for “Rust” but added that the company “did not provide Live Ammunition.” A search warrant affidavit made public Nov. 30 states that Kenney told a detective “he may know where the live rounds came from,” adding that a couple of years ago, he received “reloaded ammunition” from a friend. Kenney’s attorney said there were misstatements of fact in the affidavit. While Kenney’s company was a vendor for “Rust,” and text messages show that Kenney provided advice to the “Rust” armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, Kenney said he was not employed by the “Rust” producers. Kenney’s statement also said he did not “hold any other position or capacity with ‘Rust.’” Kenney had declined multiple requests for comment prior to publication.
Kenney, 51, suggested Gutierrez Reed for the armorer job, according to a person close to the production who was not authorized to comment.
He also supplied the guns used in “Rust,” according to six people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office investigation into last month’s deadly shooting in New Mexico.
‘Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys suggest shooting was ‘sabotage’
In multiple interviews, attorneys for ‘Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed have suggested that someone intentionally snuck live rounds onto the set.
Baldwin shot one live round from his FD Pietta Colt .45 prop gun during an Oct. 21 rehearsal at Bonanza Creek Ranch, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring the film’s director, Joel Souza. Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza has said the bullet went through Hutchins, 42, and into Souza’s shoulder. Souza was treated at a Santa Fe hospital and released.
Two of the knowledgeable people who spoke with The Times said Kenney provided the Colt .45 that Baldwin fired that day.
Kenney declined to be interviewed for this story, citing the pending investigation.
Sheriff’s detectives are still investigating key details of the shooting, including who brought live ammunition onto the movie set — a violation of film production safety protocols — and who loaded at least one lead bullet into the Colt revolver used by Baldwin.
It’s unclear what, if any, ammunition Kenney may have provided to the production.
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s spokesperson Juan Ríos declined Monday to comment on the investigation.
Sheriff’s deputies seized more than 500 rounds of ammunition from the set of “Rust,” a period film set in 1880s Kansas and filmed on the vast Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular movie location, about 13 miles south of Santa Fe. Additional rounds were found inside the revolver that Baldwin fired, Mendoza said last month during a news conference. The rounds have been sent to FBI crime laboratory in Quantico, Va., for analysis, Ríos said.
Sheriff: Lead bullet fatally struck ‘Rust’ cinematographer; 500 rounds of ammo recovered on set
Santa Fe County sheriff says it was a lead bullet that fatally struck cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film ‘Rust.’
It also is unclear how large of a role Kenney played as “mentor” to Gutierrez Reed during the “Rust” production. Representatives for the producers, Rust Movie Productions LLC, and the unit production managers, 3rd Shift Media, declined Monday to comment.
Before “Rust,” Gutierrez Reed had worked as the head armorer on just one other production, the Nicolas Cage western “The Old Way,” which was filmed last summer in Montana. “Safety is Hannah’s number one priority on set. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from,” according to a statement from Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys. “Hannah was hired for two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer. She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department.”
Several “Rust” crew members who spoke with The Times said they didn’t recall seeing Kenney on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set.
Employing an “armorer mentor” for a TV or film production appears to be exceedingly rare. Several longtime prop masters and armorers told The Times that they’ve never heard of such a position. One longtime armorer said that a supervisory role would usually be called a “key armorer” or “weapons master.” Another prop master said the more common title would be “armorer assistant” for the more junior person.
More than two decades ago, Kenney was an entrepreneur in San Clemente. With his then-wife, Kenney was part-owner of several San Clemente businesses, including a stationery store, Cheers; a gift shop, Summer House; and the Del Mar Bicycle Co., which Seth Kenney ran, according to a 1996 article in The Times.
Kenney has worked in the film industry for at least a decade and has one major film credit, according to IMDb. He was listed as a “weapon’s consultant” on the 2015 Shia LaBeouf film “Man Down,” a story about a former U.S. Marine who returns home from Afghanistan.
From 2011 to April 2016, Kenney worked at the Hand Prop Room, one of Los Angeles’ biggest prop houses, which boasts on its website that it has amassed more than 1 million props. Kenney handled the store’s weapons arsenal and dealt with prop masters for such shows as AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and movies such as “Django Unchained.”
“He rolled into Hollywood from Orange County in 2011. .... I met him for the first time when he was working at the Hand Prop firm,” said Hope M. Parrish, property master on “Django Unchained.”
“I came in to look at their weapons for ‘Django’ and he was a sales person in the weapons room there,” Parrish said. “Nice kid.”
Another industry source, who dealt with Kenney at the Hand Prop Room, said they also had a positive experience.
“He’s very knowledgeable in the field. He’s a personable person, very good at educating individuals who aren’t so good at weapons,” said this person who was not authorized to speak publicly. “He customized the weapons for whatever load you’re needing, which is very precise, he’s one of the very few who know how to do that. He provided weapons to hundreds of productions when he worked there.”
But Kenney had a falling out with the Hand Prop Room’s owners in a dispute over alleged misconduct and missing guns. The Hand Prop Room filed suit against Kenney in Los Angeles County Superior Court in May 2016, alleging that Kenney had taken some of its weapons to start a competing business. The Hand Prop Room also alleged that Kenney was trying to siphon off its clients for his own business.
Kenney had formed his own company called PDQ Media Arm & Prop in Georgia four months earlier, in January 2016. The Hand Prop Room alleged in its tortious interference lawsuit that Kenney was trying to poach one of its longtime customers, the prop master for “The Walking Dead.” The Hand Prop Room owners said in the lawsuit that they learned he had opened his own firm in April 2016 while he was employed with them.
In March 2017, the Hand Prop Room asked to have the case dismissed — and it was, according to court records.
Monty Pollack, one of the owners of the Hand Prop Room, declined to comment this weekend on his dealings with Kenney.
Kenney’s Georgia-based firm dissolved in August 2017, according to state records.
The following month, Kenney opened PDQ Media Arm & Prop in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.. In April 2019, he separately listed a similarly named prop company, PDQ Arm & Prop, LLC, based in Albuquerque, according to New Mexico public records.
Gutierrez Reed lives in Bullhead City, Ariz., about 65 miles from Lake Havasu City, where Kenney maintains a residence.
Kenney’s company holds two licenses for dealing in firearms issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to agency records. The company is registered with federal authorities to manufacture most firearms with the intent to sell them, and to import weapons and ammunition. The licenses expire in 2024, records show.
The licenses also allow employees of the company — alternatively called PDQ Arm & Prop LLC and PDQ Media Arms and Prop LLC — to legally transport guns over state lines.
Federal officials require that applicants for a federal firearms license be fingerprinted, undergo a background check and complete an in-person interview. Licensees are required to keep a record of firearms sales and to send a report to ATF when selling multiple firearms to the same purchaser within a short time frame.
Staff writers Laura J. Nelson and James Queally contributed to this report.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.