April 24th, 2024

Production manager testifies about gun oversight in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin in 2021 rehearsal

By Morgan Lee, The Associated Press on February 28, 2024.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – A film-set manager increased oversight of firearm safety but was only partially aware of misfires in the days leading up to the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin during rehearsal for the Western movie “Rust,” jurors heard in courtroom testimony Wednesday.

The trial of movie armorer 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.

Gutierrez-Reed has pleaded not guilty, and defense attorney Jason Bowles highlighted in cross examinations that Baldwin was allowed to walk and talk with crew members in the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Oct. 21, 2021, while Gutierrez-Reed was confined to police vehicles and supervised even while going to the bathroom.

Baldwin, the 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. That trial is scheduled for July.

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

Producers reduced paperwork requirements for Gutierrez-Reed to help her keep up with responsibilities that included the oversight of real guns and fake ammunition, Pickle said, though live ammunition would find its way onto the set in violation of industry guidelines. She added that she confronted Gutierrez-Reed about complaints that guns were left unattended and negotiated for improved monitoring.

Gutierrez-Reed told investigators in November 2021 that she trained Baldwin in weapons handling for at least a day but wanted more time and was concerned about his proficiency with drawing a revolver 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 Gutierrez-Reed for more time as an armorer to train a child actor, with Baldwin in attendance.

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

Baldwin was pointing the gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza. 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 defense, Pickle acknowledged that she was told of one accidental discharge but said the other one 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 Hutchins.

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

“Anyone on set,” Pickle responded.

Defense attorneys say problems on the set were beyond Gutierrez-Reed’s control and have pointed to shortcomings in the collection of evidence and interviews. They also say the main ammunition supplier wasn’t properly investigated.

Prosecutors say 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 don’t match ones seized from the movie’s supplier in Albuquerque.

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