Nearly two weeks after the death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, there’s been little update about how a live round somehow made its way into a prop gun that was handed to actor Alec Baldwin, who fatally shot Hutchins and injured the film’s director, Joel Souza.
But lawyers for the film’s head armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, are now suggesting that someone on set wanted to “sabotage” the film, pointing to several camera crew members who had walked off the set hours before the tragic accident to protest working conditions.
“I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, want to prove a point, want to say that they’re disgruntled, they’re unhappy,” Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer Jason Bowles told the Today show on Wednesday.
“I think you can’t rule anybody out at this point,” he said of the possibility that a crew member might have purposefully added a live round to a box supposedly filled with dummy rounds.
“We know there was a live round in a box of dummy rounds that shouldn’t have been there,” Bowles added. “We have people who had left the set, who had walked out because they were disgruntled. We have a time frame between 11 and 1 approximately, that day, in which the firearms at times were unattended, so there was opportunity to tamper with this scene.”
Ammunition was kept in a prop truck on set, according to Gutierrez-Reed’s second attorney, Robert Gorence, who said the vehicle was “completely unattended at all times, giving someone access and opportunity.”
The lawyers admit that Gutierrez-Reed had prepped a tray of guns that were meant to be used for a scene that afternoon, and left them unattended for around two hours.
According to the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office search warrant affidavit, Baldwin had been handed the .45 Long Colt revolver by Dave Halls, a seasoned first assistant director. Halls had picked up the gun from a prop table, and handed it to Baldwin, declaring the gun was “cold,” indicating that it did not contain live rounds.
Halls told investigators that Gutierrez-Reed had shown the gun to him, but he couldn’t remember if she had spun the drum so that he could check every round, admitting he should have checked every chamber.
When pressed about Gutierrez-Reed’s responsibility to maintain custody of the firearms as head armorer and to properly check weapons, her lawyers again tried to shift blame away from their client, suggesting she was stretched thin because she was also working as key props assistant.
“She had another duty and responsibility as key props assistant, and so she had gone to do that, right after she had provided the handgun to Mr. Halls,” Gorence said. “So, Mr. Halls took custody of the weapon, and at that point, she was doing her other duties as key prop assistant.”
Sources on Rust previously told The Daily Beast the accident was a result of failings from top to bottom, starting with the production’s low budget and cost-cutting measures. Gutierrez-Reed was described as being “inexperienced and green” by a Rust production source, who was hired after other veteran armorers turned down the job because of low pay and multiple “red flags.”
There were also previous concerns raised about the 24-year-old armorer, with two production sources telling The Daily Beast that filming on the set of her last movie, The Old Way, was briefly stopped after she allegedly gave a gun to an 11-year-old actress without checking it properly.
But as Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer attempt to point the finger at a disgruntled crew member upset about working conditions, Baldwin himself is disputing reports that the production was unsafe or that there were grueling hours.
The actor and producer shared a lengthy post on Instagram from Terese Magpale Davis, who worked in the wardrobe department on Rust, who wrote that she was “so sick of this narrative.”
“The story of us being overworked and surrounded by unsafe, chaotic conditions is bullshit,” she added, claiming that there were hardly any filming days that went beyond 12 hours. “No one was too tired to do their jobs.”
While the main source of tension was over accommodations—crew members had been driving an hour home in the dark from the set outside Santa Fe to Albuquerque after reportedly being told they’d be set up in a nearby hotel—Davis claimed the crew was upset because the hotels “weren’t fancy enough.”