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Friday, April 19, 2024

Rust’ armorer labeled as ‘negligent’; defense claims she’s being made a fall guy

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From SANTA FE, N.M. — The chief ‌armorer for the⁢ film “Rust,” Hannah Gutierrez, was held accountable ⁤by a New Mexico prosecutor on Thursday⁣ for the tragic shooting ​incident that took⁢ place on the set in 2021, leading to the death of ⁢the‍ film’s cinematographer. However, her attorney argued that she was being unfairly⁢ blamed for the unfortunate event.

During the opening statements of⁣ her involuntary manslaughter trial, Gutierrez,​ aged 27, maintained a calm demeanor. ‌She‍ stands accused of⁢ introducing​ live ammunition on the ‍film set,⁢ a practice that has⁤ been strictly prohibited for almost a hundred years.

Despite pleading not guilty, Gutierrez’s legal‌ team informed ‍the jury, ​consisting of five women and seven men,‌ that she was being held responsible for a disorganized, low-budget production. They​ argued that she was overworked, her requests for additional firearms training were disregarded, and actor Alec Baldwin violated fundamental gun safety ⁣protocols by aiming the revolver at a person and firing.

The⁢ fatal shooting of Hutchins​ occurred when Baldwin‍ was practicing with a replica Colt .45 “Peacemaker” revolver, loaded with ⁤a ⁢live round by Gutierrez, on the Santa ‌Fe film set. Director ‍Joel Souza, who‍ was ‌also injured in the incident, survived.

Charges against ‌Baldwin were initially dropped​ in April, only to be reinstated on January 19. His legal team is pushing for a ‍trial in June. Baldwin, who also served as a producer on ⁣”Rust,”⁢ has denied ⁣any culpability, claiming that‌ the gun discharged without him pulling the trigger and ‌that weapons safety was ​not ⁣his responsibility.

However, both an FBI‍ and ⁣an independent examination of⁤ the revolver concluded that it could not fire without the trigger being pulled.

“They’re attempting to pin the entire blame on Hannah, who was only 24 at the time of the shooting, because​ she’s an easy target — she’s the ​least influential person on⁢ that set,” stated Gutierrez’s attorney,‌ Jason Bowles, during his opening statement.

‘Negligent and Unprofessional’

The tragic incident marked the ⁤first on-set fatal shooting since actor Brandon Lee, the 28-year-old son‌ of the late martial artist and ‍actor Bruce Lee, was killed ​in 1993 during a film shoot.

A state prosecutor from New Mexico labeled ‌Gutierrez’s work as “negligent and unprofessional,” ⁢alleging that she often neglected firearm safety checks.

“We believe that the ⁢negligent actions and failures‌ of ​the defendant, Miss Gutierrez, led to Miss Hutchins’ death and the introduction of live rounds on the ‍set,” stated special prosecutor Jason Lewis, who was appointed nearly a year ago after two predecessors resigned due to a series of legal errors.

Gutierrez ‌has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge and⁣ an additional charge of evidence tampering for allegedly passing a bag of cocaine to a crew ‌member on⁢ October 21, 2021, after the shooting to ‌prevent the police from discovering it. Each felony charge carries a potential prison sentence of up⁣ to 18 months.

Lewis presented photos of live rounds​ found‌ on the set as⁢ evidence, stating that they should have been easily identifiable due to their shiny nickel primers, or end caps, in contrast to​ the dull brass⁣ primers and⁣ aged appearance of the dummy ⁣rounds. He added that dummy ⁢rounds had holes in the side or ball ⁤bearings inside that ⁢would rattle when shaken.

Bowles refuted this, stating that many dummy rounds⁣ on the set also had nickel primers and some lacked ball bearings,‍ making them indistinguishable from live rounds.

He accused props supplier Seth Kenney of introducing ‍the live ⁤rounds to the set and props master Sarah Zachary, who was employed by⁣ Kenney, of tampering with the crime scene by discarding evidence ‍after the shooting.

Neither Kenney ⁢nor Zachary have been charged,​ and prosecutors have stated ⁢that there is no evidence to suggest⁣ that Kenney supplied live rounds. Both are listed⁤ as potential witnesses⁣ by the prosecution and defense.

Nicholas LeFleur, a‌ Santa Fe police officer ​and one of the first law enforcement officials to ‍arrive⁤ at the scene after the shooting, ⁢testified in court about a ‍chaotic scene where securing evidence was challenging and⁣ a lawyer​ for the production company was conversing with witnesses.

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