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‘Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys suggest shooting was ‘sabotage’

A wooden building surrounded by studio lights and equipment on a dirt surface
An aerial shot of Bonanza Creek Ranch, the site of the Oct. 21 “Rust” shooting in New Mexico.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Attorneys for “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed have suggested that someone intentionally smuggled live rounds of ammunition into a box of dummy rounds before cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed.

While appearing Wednesday on multiple morning news programs, lawyer Jason Bowles floated the possibility that someone “intended to sabotage” the production by sneaking live rounds into the package of ammo Gutierrez Reed used to load the prop gun fired by star Alec Baldwin.

“Why do you place that in the box labeled ‘dummies’ that the armorer is going to be pulling from?” Bowles said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“Why would you do that other than to try to cause some incident on the set? Now, we’re not saying anybody had any intent there was going to be a tragedy — a homicide — but they wanted to do something to cause a safety incident on set. That’s what we believe happened.”

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Hannah Gutierrez Reed had been hired for two different roles on the low-budget western, which made focusing on her job as armorer ‘extremely difficult,’ according to a written statement from the Albuquerque firm Gorence & Oliveros that was shared with The Times.

When “Good Morning America” anchor Michael Strahan pressed Bowles for evidence to support his “very, very serious allegation,” Gutierrez Reed’s rep asserted that his client did not place into the ammunition box the live round that ultimately struck Hutchins in the chest on New Mexico’s Bonanza Creek Ranch.

“We know the live rounds shouldn’t have been in that box, but they were,” Bowles continued.

“So there can be very, very few explanations for why live rounds end up in a box of dummy prop ammunition on a movie set. And one of them is that somebody wants that to go into a firearm and then wants there to be an incident on the set. There’s no other reason to mix a live round with the dummies. There’s just none.”

Interviews with multiple members of the “Rust” crew paint an hour- by-hour picture of a cascade of bad decisions that created a chaotic set on which a lead bullet was put into a prop gun.

After Bowles and his co-attorney Robert Gorence presented the same argument on Wednesday’s episode of NBC’s “Today” show, host Savannah Guthrie questioned why anyone would “have the motive and opportunity” to plant such a safety hazard behind the scenes of the Baldwin western.

“I believe that somebody who would do that would want to ... prove a point, want to say that they’re disgruntled,” Bowles told Guthrie.

“And we know that people had already walked off the set the day before. ... And the reason they were unhappy is they’re working 12- to 14-hour days. They were not given hotel rooms in and around the area. So they had to drive back and forth an hour to Albuquerque, and they’re unhappy.”

On Sunday, crew member Serge Svetnoy posted a long Facebook message detailing Thursday’s fatal shooting of the film’s director of photography.

According to the Los Angeles Times’ timeline of events leading to the shooting, the “Rust” camera crew had indeed staged a walkout ahead of the incident, fed up with unreasonable working conditions.

At the mention of the walkout, Guthrie interrupted Bowles again to confirm whether he was accusing the disgruntled crew members of planting the live ammunition.

“You can’t rule anybody out at this point,” Bowles said. “We know there was a live round in a box of dummy rounds that shouldn’t have been there. ...

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars, was killed on the set of ‘Rust.’ Here’s everything we know so far.

“We have people who had left the set who had walked out because they were disgruntled. We have a timeframe between 11 and 1 [p.m.], approximately, that day in which the firearms, at times, were unattended. So there was opportunity to tamper with the scene. And yes, we’re looking at that possibility.”

A representative for the crew members who walked off the “Rust” set declined to comment when reached Wednesday by The Times.

Since the early days of filming, production managers on “Rust” raised concerns about the experience level of 24-year-old Gutierrez Reed, who was responsible for all of the guns on set and had served as head armorer on only one film previously.

Alec Baldwin has taken to Instagram, sharing what appear to be comments by a “Rust” costume designer defending the film’s embattled producers.

Late last month, the senior electrician on the production blamed Gutierrez Reed and producers for “negligence” leading to Hutchins’ death — arguing that “there is no way a twenty-four-year-old woman can be a professional with armory.”

On Wednesday, Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers challenged that characterization, claiming that their client gained extensive firearm expertise while shadowing her father, an industry-renowned gun professional, on film sets from the age of 10. They say that the “Rust” tragedy resulted not from Gutierrez Reed’s inexperience, but from “a production set where they didn’t” provide adequate resources.


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