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Prosecutor Knew ‘Close To The Beginning’ They Planned To File Charges In ‘Rust’ Shooting

A special prosecutor spoke out about the involuntary manslaughter charges Alec Baldwin is facing in the tragic 2021 shooting death of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

By Jill Sederstrom
Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun On Set, Killing One

Prosecutors knew they’d file criminal charges in the fatal shooting of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins shortly after their investigation began.

“We felt very confident that this was going to be a criminal case pretty close to the beginning, once we started looking at everything,” special prosecutor Andrea Reeb told NBC News Thursday.

Reeb and First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced Thursday that they plan to file involuntary manslaughter charges against actor Alec Baldwin and the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed by the end of the month after concluding that there had been “criminal disregard for safety” on the film’s set, resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42.

"I'm sure he was confident he wasn't going to get charged. But he isn't above the law and he is somebody who committed a crime, and we're going to hold him to the law, hold him accountable," Reeb said while referencing Baldwin.

RELATED: Alec Baldwin Says State Report ‘Exonerates’ Him In Shooting Death Of Halyna Hutchins

Hutchins was killed during an afternoon rehearsal for the western on Oct. 21, 2021, when the antique revolver Baldwin was holding discharged and struck her in the chest. It then lodged into the shoulder of director Joel Souza, who survived.

Baldwin has long insisted that he never pulled the trigger and believed at the time of the shooting that the weapon was a “cold gun,” a term used in the movie industry to refer to a weapon without any live ammunition.

“The trigger wasn’t pulled,” he later told ABC News in December 2021. “I didn’t pull the trigger.”

But Carmack-Altwies pushed back on that claim, referencing an FBI ballistics report released in August of 2022.

“That’s not true, and we know that from the FBI lab report,” she said.

Alec Baldwin G

The report, which was previously obtained by Oxygen.com, concluded the .45 caliber Colt replica F.Illi Pietta single-action revolver used during the scene “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger.”

“It's possible that he didn't know he pulled the trigger, that it was sort of an unconscious decision," Carmack-Altwies said. "But we have videos of him where his hand was on the trigger, and we know from the FBI report that he pulled that trigger.”

Assistant Director David Halls, who handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced it was a “cold gun,” already signed a plea deal admitting to negligent use of a deadly weapon, prosecutors said.

His attorney Lisa Torraco told The New York Times that Halls agreed to the plea deal — which included a suspended sentence and six months of probation — to “put this matter behind him and allow the focus of this tragedy to be on the shooting victims, their family and changing the industry so this type of accident will never happen again.”

Prosecutors believe it had also been Baldwin’s responsibility on set to inspect the weapon to ensure it was loaded with dummy rounds.

Carmack-Altwies told the news outlet that the actor should have never pointed gun directly at Hutchins, who had been standing in front of him in the small wooden church setting up the shot.

“You should not point a gun at someone that you’re not willing to shoot,” Carmack-Altwies said. “That goes to basic safety standards.”

Shortly after the charges were announced, SAG-AFTRA, which represents about 160,000 actors and other professional entertainers, released their own statement objecting to the prosecutors’ conclusions.

“The prosecutor’s contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed,” they said. “An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for their use under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm.”

They added that it was the employer’s responsibility to provide “a safe work environment at all times, including hiring and supervising the work of professionals trained in weapons.”

Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, also called the charges a “terrible miscarriage of justice,” in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com.

According to Reeb, part of the decision to file the charges against Baldwin also stemmed from the fact that he had been serving as a producer of the film, and should have been aware of the past safety concerns on the set — the Los Angeles Times previously reported that numerous crew members expressed concern over the gun safety protocols.

“The misfires on set, the way the gun was handed to him, he’s experienced,” she told NBC News. “He understands what the proper protocol is for safety, and he was just disregarding that.”

Carmack-Altwies added that “just because something’s an accident doesn’t mean it’s not criminal.”

"Because an accident that is not criminal is something that just happens because of an act of God. But this was something that was more than mere negligence," she said. "It's people acting recklessly, people not doing their jobs, people not following safety protocols, not following safety standards and violating all of the standards that we all have to follow if we have a gun in our hands."

Prosecutors said they may never know how the live bullets got onto the set and into the gun.

“Unfortunately, that may be a question we’re never going to be able to answer,” Reeb told the news outlet. “We’re focused on the issue that they did get on set and that nobody caught it. None of these three individuals caught it."

Jason Bowles and Todd J. Bullion, attorneys representing Guiterrez-Reed — who was tasked with maintaining and handling the weapons — called the criminal charges against their client the result of a “flawed investigation.”

"Hannah is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter," they said in a statement to Oxygen.com. "These charges are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts. We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury."

Hutchins, 42, left behind a young son and husband.

Halyna Hutchins G

Her family said in a statement to Oxygen.com through attorney Brian J. Panish that they support the charges.

“We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law,” they said.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are each facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Jurors will be tasked with determining which of the manslaughter charges, if any, applies in the case.

While both charges are considered fourth-degree felonies and come with the possibility of 18 months in jail, the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act includes a firearm enhancement that would come with a “mandatory penalty” of five years behind bars.

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