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'Rust' Armorer Has 'No Idea' How Live Rounds Got Onto Movie Set, Her Attorneys Say
Hannah Gutierrez's attorneys also seemingly shot down rumors that the guns had been used by crew during breaks for target practice, saying that "she never witnessed anyone shoot live rounds with these guns, nor would she permit that."
The armorer on the set of “Rust” has “no idea” how live ammunition got into the prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, according to her attorneys.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza announced earlier this week that Hutchins was killed by a “suspected live round” fired from a revolver being handled by actor Alec Baldwin as he was rehearsing a scene where he drew the weapon and pointed it at the camera.
Armorer Hannah Gutierrez has now said through her attorneys that she doesn’t know how the live round or other suspected live ammunition found on set may have gotten there.
“Safety is Hannah’s number one priority on set,” attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence said in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com. “Ultimately this set would have never been compromised if live ammo were not introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from.”
They said Gutierrez is “devastated and completely beside herself over the events that have transpired” and had considered Hutchins “an inspirational woman in film.”
According to a search warrant obtained by Oxygen.com, Gutierrez—who is tasked with maintaining the guns on set—told investigators that on the day of the shooting she had checked the “dummies” to ensure that they were not “hot” rounds, a term used to refer to live ammunition.
When the crew broke for lunch around 12:30 p.m., Gutierrez said she secured the firearms in a safe inside a prop truck.
When the break was over, investigators said Sarah Zachery pulled the firearms out of the safe and passed them to Gutierrez, who said she passed the firearm to both Baldwin and assistant director David Halls during the course of filming.
Gutierrez stressed that “no live ammo is ever kept on set,” according to the search warrant.
Halls told authorities that he also typically checks the firearms.
“I check the barrel for obstructions, most of the time there’s no live fire, (Hannah) opens the hatch and spins the drum, and I say cold gun on set,” he told authorities, according to the warrant.
After the lunch break, Halls told investigators that Gutierrez “showed him the weapon before continuing rehearsal,” but “he could only remember seeing three rounds.”
“He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum,” the search warrant stated.
Hutchins had been peering through the camera lens to set up the shot, with director Joel Souza behind her, when the gun went off striking her in the chest. Souza was shot, by what authorities believe was the same bullet, in the shoulder.
The lead bullet was later recovered by medical personnel from his shoulder.
“We regard this specific spent casing and recovered projectile to be the live round that was fired from the revolver by Mr. Baldwin,” Mendoza said at a press conference earlier this week.
Investigators also seized what is believed to be “possible additional live rounds” found on the set at the time of the shooting.
Although there were rumors after the shooting that the guns had been used during breaks for target practice, Gutierrez’ attorneys seemed to refute those accounts.
“Hannah and the prop master gained control over the guns and she never witnessed anyone shoot live rounds with these guns, nor would she permit that,” the lawyers wrote in the statement. “They were locked up every night and at lunch and there’s no way a single one of them was unaccounted for or being shot by crew members.”
They also addressed reports that two accidental discharges had occurred on set before the fatal shooting.
“Hannah still, to this day, has never had an accidental discharge,” they wrote. “The first one on this set was the prop master and the second was a stunt man after Hannah informed him that his gun was hot with blanks.”
Gutierrez’s attorneys described the working conditions on the set of the western as “unsafe” and said Gutierrez had tried to address her concerns before Hutchins was killed.
“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” they said. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons, and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings. This was not the fault of Hannah.”
Although there have been multiple reports questioning the safety on set, the film’s production company, Rust Movie Productions, has said that safety had been a priority.
“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company,” they said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times. “Though we were not made aware of any officials complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an interview review of our procedures while production is shut down.”
District Attorney Mary Carmack Altwies said earlier this week that it was too early to say whether criminal charges would be filed in the case but that “all options are on the table at the point.”
“If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time,” she said.
Investigators have said Halls, Gutierrez and Baldwin have all been cooperative.