29 February 2024

Production manager testifies about Alec Baldwin shooting in 2021 Rust rehearsal

29 February 2024

A producer on the set of the film Rust increased oversights for gun safety only days before Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set, jurors were told in courtroom testimony on Wednesday.

The manager was also only partially aware of other misfires that occurred in the days before the fatal shooting on the Western movie set.

The trial of movie armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed on charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering entered its fifth day with testimony from the on-set manager, as well as the lead investigator in the case from the Santa Fe sheriff’s office.

Ms Gutierrez-Reed has pleaded not guilty with her defence lawyer Jason Bowles highlighting in cross-examinations that Mr Baldwin was allowed to walk and talk with crew members in the immediate aftermath of the shooting on October 21, 2021, while Ms Gutierrez-Reed was confined to police vehicles and was supervised even while she went to the bathroom.

Mr Baldwin, lead actor and co-producer on Rust was indicted by a grand jury last month and has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Gabrielle Pickle, who helped hire the crew and oversaw spending on gun safety and training, told jurors on Wednesday that the number of “armourer days” — that is, with a dedicated weapons supervisor on set — was expanded from five to 10 as Ms Gutierrez-Reed lobbied for more time to focus on firearms instead of her other duties as a props assistant.

Producers reduced paperwork requirements for Ms Gutierrez-Reed to help her keep up with responsibilities that included the oversight of real guns and fake ammunition, Ms Pickle said.

She added that she confronted Ms Gutierrez-Reed about complaints that guns were left unattended. Ms Pickle also negotiated for improved monitoring of firearms on set.

Ms Gutierrez-Reed told investigators in November 2021 that she trained Mr Baldwin in weapons handling for at least a day but wanted more time and was concerned about his proficiency with pulling a revolver out from a holster.

Video of that interview was played before the jury, but she has not testified at trial.

Pickle testified that she received a request from Ms Gutierrez-Reed for more time as an armourer to train a child actor, with Mr Baldwin in attendance.

“She requested training that would involve Brady, a minor who did not fire weapons in the movie, and I denied that for insurance purposes,” Ms Pickle said. “The request was not because Alec needed more time.”

Ms Baldwin was pointing the gun at Ms Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Mr Baldwin has said he pulled back the hammer but not the trigger.

New Mexico workplace safety regulators say production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.

Under cross-examination by the defence, Ms Pickle acknowledged that she was told of one accidental discharge. Still, she said the other was never reported to her and did not appear in a daily log of significant events. She said she only learned of it after the shooting of Ms Hutchins.

“Whose responsibility would it be in the chain of command to report those accidental discharges?” Mr Bowles asked her.

“Anyone on set,” Ms Pickle responded.

Defence lawyers say problems on the set were beyond Ms Gutierrez-Reed’s control and have pointed to shortcomings in the collection of evidence and interviews.

They also say the main ammunition supplier was not adequately investigated.

Prosecutors say Ms Gutierrez-Reed is to blame for bringing live ammunition on set, and she treated basic safety protocols for weapons as optional.

They say six live rounds bear identical characteristics and do not match the ones seized from the movie’s supplier in Albuquerque.

Mr Baldwin will face a courtroom in July concerning his charge of involuntary manslaughter.

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