‘Rust’ armorer faces sentencing for fatal shooting on Alec Baldwin film set

By Thomson Reuters Apr 15, 2024 | 6:32 AM

By Andrew Hay

SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) – Hannah Gutierrez, chief weapons handler on “Rust,” will be sentenced Monday for the 2021 fatal shooting of the movie’s cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by actor Alec Baldwin in the first such Hollywood fatality in modern times.

Gutierrez, 27, faces up to 18 months in state prison after a jury found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter for mistakenly loading a live round into a revolver Baldwin was using on a Santa Fe, New Mexico, movie set.

Baldwin’s trial is set for July 10 after a grand jury indicted him for involuntary manslaughter.

New Mexico district court judge Mary Marlowe Sommer will sentence Gutierrez, step daughter of Hollywood gun trainer Thell Reed, in a hearing starting a 10:30 a.m. after she ordered her remanded in county jail following the March trial.

Gutierrez’s lawyer Jason Bowles requested she be given probation as she had no previous criminal record. State prosecutor Kari Morrissey asked that she be sentenced to 18 months due to a lack of contrition, citing phone calls Gutierrez made from jail in which she said the jury were “idiots” and the judge “paid off.”

Much will depend on whether Marlowe Sommer considers Hutchins’ death a serious violent offense, said Santa Fe criminal defense attorney Stephen Aarons who has been following the trial.

“The fact that somebody died, another person was shot, those are huge weights in favor of prison time,” said Aarons, adding that Gutierrez could cut any sentence in half with good behavior if Marlowe Sommer judged it a non-violent crime.

A Santa Fe jury took less than two hours to reach a verdict on March 6, one juror afterwards saying Gutierrez had not done “her job” to ensure weapons safety on set.

Hutchins’ death initially prompted U.S. film and television productions to stop using real firearms and blank ammunition. Two and a half years later, they are returning as productions favor their realistic effects, according to armorers.

During Gutierrez’s three week trial, prosecutors accused her of unknowingly bringing live Colt .45 rounds onto the set of the low-budget movie, an act strictly forbidden for nearly a century under Screen Actors Guild safety guidelines.

Bowles said Gutierrez was the scapegoat for a chaotic production where she was not given time to check weapons. He blamed Hutchins’ death on reckless use of firearms by Baldwin and efforts to rush and control filming by the actor, who was also a producer and writer on “Rust.”

Hutchins was fatally shot when Baldwin pointed his gun at the cinematographer and it fired the live round as she set up a camera shot. The “30 Rock” actor denies pulling the trigger. The FBI and an independent firearms expert found the gun would not fire without the trigger depressed.

Previous on-set fatal shootings of actors Brandon Lee in 1993 and Jon-Erik Hexum in 1984 involved blank rounds.

Film historians like Alan Rode have to go back to the early part of the last century to find examples of Hollywood cast or crew killed by live rounds accidentally loaded into prop guns.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Aurora Ellis)