By Ella Malmgren
On Feb. 23, Alec Baldwin pleaded not guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge of Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot by Baldwin on the set of Rust.
While on set in New Mexico, assistant director David Halls handed Baldwin a Colt .45 prop gun. Baldwin claims he was moving the gun around when a live shot came out of it and fatally hit Hutchins. It also injured the film’s director, Joel Souza.
Baldwin says that he never pointed it at Hutchins directly, or fired the gun.
However, script supervisor Mamie Mitchell claims that Baldwin was playing a game of “Russian Roulette,” and pointed the gun at Hutchins. Mitchell filed a civil suit against Baldwin that November.
In January 2022, the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, filed a lawsuit against the prop provider, PDQ Arm and Prop, LLC., because they failed to state that some of the props contained live ammunition.
Gutierrez-Reed claims that the box that contained the prop guns were labeled “dummy rounds of .45 LC.”
Real guns are allowed to be used on set, but ammunition is prohibited. Many times, “blanks” will be used with added powder, to give the impression of a real gunshot. But the gun Baldwin used was found to have had “lead projectile” in it, making it a “hot” firearm.
The tragic incident has sparked important conversations about firearm safety on film sets.
An immediate investigation was launched following the incident. It took over a year, but prosecutors from the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office officially charged Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed with manslaughter in January 2023.
Although Baldwin did not know there was live ammunition in the gun, Robert Shilling, a special investigator for the district attorney’s office, accused him of “not receiving sufficient training on firearms, of failing to deal with safety complaints on set, of ‘putting his finger on the trigger of a real firearm when a replica or rubber gun should have been used’ and of pointing the firearm at the film’s cinematographer and director.”
Baldwin still claims that he never actually pulled the trigger of the gun, but an F.B.I investigation concluded that he had to have pulled the trigger in order for the gun to go off.
In the charges against Gutierrez-Reed, prosecutors claim that she failed to check the rounds in the gun, and didn’t follow correct protocol for handling firearms on set.
On Feb. 20, prosecutors downgraded the charges against Baldwin, charging him with less prison time.
This was due to a huge error on the prosecution’s part – they charged him with a firearm law that was passed after the incident occurred. The sentence for Baldwin has been dropped from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 18 months.
Although criminal and civil lawsuits are still underway, Rust Movie Productions has confirmed that they are still finishing the movie. Typically, during a case a defendant facing criminal charges is not allowed to have contact with witnesses, but the courts have waived this rule due to the circumstances of the movie production.
Baldwin has entered a not-guilty plea, and has waived his right to appear in court. The court hearings are still ongoing.