New Mexico prosecutors filed involuntary-manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin and a member of his film crew Tuesday. An affidavit accused the actor of “many instances of extremely reckless acts or reckless failures to act” before he fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with a prop gun on the set of “Rust” more than a year ago.
Baldwin and set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were each charged with the felony, which can carry up to a five-year prison sentence, depending on how a jury decides the case. A third member of the production who allegedly handled the gun, first assistant director David Halls, was charged under a plea deal with negligent use of a deadly weapon.
“Today we have taken another important step in securing justice for Halyna Hutchins,” Mary Carmack-Altwies, district attorney for the Santa Fe area, said in a statement, after previewing the charges earlier this month. “In New Mexico, no one is above the law and justice will be served.”
Prosecutors allege a slew of safety lapses on the set of the low-budget Western, which Baldwin was starring in and producing. They blame some of the issues on the actor and others on Gutierrez-Reed, who they argue was dangerously unqualified to be responsible for firearms on the production.
Baldwin hadn’t attended a required firearms training before the start of production, affidavits allege, and he was “consistently talking on his cell phone” during another session that had to be cut short due his distractions.
On the afternoon of Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin sat in a church building on set, practicing drawing and pointing a .45 Long Colt revolver with Hutchins and other crew members. At some point during this informal rehearsal, the gun discharged. A bullet passed through Hutchins and struck the film’s director, Joel Souza, according to the affidavit. Both were taken to hospitals, where Souza was treated and quickly released. Hutchins was declared dead at age 42.
While it remains unclear how live ammunition ended up in the weapon, a real gun never should have been used in the first place, according to the affidavit. “It was … determined by consultation with expert armorers that in a rehearsal, a plastic gun or replica gun should be used as no firing of blanks is required,” special investigator Robert Shilling wrote in the document.
Shilling made note of Baldwin’s “inconsistent accounts” regarding what happened on set. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, he wrote, Baldwin told authorities he “fired” the gun. But in a television interview, he said he would “never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”
In fact, an FBI investigation of the Colt determined that it “could not accidentally fire,” the affidavit states. Someone had to have pulled the trigger.
“Baldwin directly pointed a firearm at Hutchins and Souza,” the document reads. “Whether guided by her [Hutchins’s] directions or not, Baldwin knew the first rule of gun safety is never point a gun at someone you don’t intend on shooting. In addition, always assume a gun is loaded. Had Baldwin performed the required safety checks with the armorer, Reed, this tragedy would not have occurred.”
Prosecutors also allege that Gutierrez-Reed did not have the proper certification or experience to serve as armorer. According to the affidavit, she had twice allowed firearm accidents to take place on set before the fatal incident.
Gutierrez-Reed told detectives she believed the Colt had been loaded with dummy rounds when she placed it in a cart for the crew on the day of Hutchins’s death. Halls retrieved the weapon and called out “cold gun” to indicate it did not contain any live rounds, then handed it to Baldwin for the rehearsal scene.
The affidavit accuses Gutierrez-Reed of not being present in the church building as Baldwin held the weapon, “in direct violation of established safety policy and procedure utilized on all film sets.” Shilling wrote that the armorer also failed to show Baldwin and Halls each bullet “to prove they were dummies.” Five live rounds and one spent casing were later recovered from the scene.
“Reed should have caught this live ammunition on set but put everyone on the ‘Rust’ set in danger by failing to do her job,” Shilling wrote.
Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed — Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion — said in a statement Tuesday that their client had asked to provide more extensive firearm training, to use a plastic gun while rehearsing and to be present in the church if Baldwin were to use a real weapon, but was denied each request by other members of the production, including Halls.
“We will fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty,” the statement reads.
An internationally famous actor, Baldwin has made appearances in more than 100 projects since the 1980s, including films such as 1992’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” and a starring role in the hit sitcom “30 Rock.” He defended himself after the shooting in a television interview and through civil litigation, essentially pleading his innocence in the court of public opinion.
Hutchins’s family sued Baldwin and several crew members, producers and production companies, but agreed to a settlement with the parties in October.
Prosecutors announced Jan. 19 that they intended to pursue involuntary-manslaughter charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed. Each count carries a sentence of up to 18 month in jail, which could be enhanced to a mandatory five years if a jury determines that more than simple negligence was involved in the shooting.
Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, called the decision “a terrible miscarriage of justice” in a statement released this month.
Halls avoided the possibility of prison time by striking a plea agreement that includes a suspended sentence and six months of probation. His lawyer, Lisa Torraco, said the deal “is the best outcome for Mr. Halls and the case” when it was announced earlier this month.
This story has been updated.