‘Rust’ assistant director praises armorer, takes blame for shooting

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 7:49 PM

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – “Rust” first assistant director Dave Halls on Thursday testified that the movie’s armorer was diligent in her work and he was ultimately to blame for the 2021 fatal shooting of the film’s cinematographer as he did not do a final check on a gun.

Halls was the first “Rust” crew member to praise armorer Hannah Gutierrez during her two-week involuntary manslaughter trial in which former colleagues have said she was less professional than other weapons handlers they had worked with.

Jurors at the trial heard Halls, an industry veteran with credits like “The Matrix Reloaded,” testify the armorer on Oct. 21, 2021 “abandoned” her usual habit of checking firearms, handing him a revolver she had mistakenly loaded a live round into.

Halls said he failed to have Gutierrez show him all the rounds in the reproduction Colt. 45 “Peacemaker” to ensure they were dummies – as is standard practice in the industry – before the gun went to actor Alec Baldwin inside a movie-set church outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“I let a safety check pass,” said Halls, at times wiping away tears. Halls entered a plea bargain last year for negligent use of a deadly weapon with a six-month suspended sentence.

He said he may have been the first person to speak to Hutchins after Baldwin pointed the gun at her while setting up a scene and it fired the live round. Baldwin has said he did not pull the trigger.

“She said ‘I can’t feel my legs,'” Halls said, a day after the medical examiner who autopsied Hutchins told the court that the bullet went through her spinal cord.

Gutierrez said she shook the rounds she loaded into the gun to test they were dummies with ball bearings inside that rattle before handing the firearm to Halls. She has pleaded not guilty.

Both Halls and props supplier Sarah Zachry testified on Thursday that they did not recall Gutierrez ever rattle-testing rounds on set to check they were dummies.

Halls defended Baldwin, also charged with involuntary manslaughter, saying the actor did not endanger safety by rushing production, as prosecutors allege.

Baldwin – also producer and writer on Rust – has a July 10 trial date and has pleaded not guilty.

“There was never any Mr. Baldwin rushing anybody,” Halls said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Christopher Cushing)