April 16th, 2024

Workplace safety regulator says management failed in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

By Morgan Lee, The Associated Press on March 5, 2024.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – Complaints by a movie weapons supervisor to managers went unheeded as she sought more time and resources to fulfill safety duties on the set of the Western movie “Rust,” where actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer, a workplace safety investigator testified Tuesday at the trial.

Defense attorneys for armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed called the inspector among its first witnesses to refute allegations of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal in October 2021.

Lorenzo Montoya, of the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, conducted a six-month investigation of the shooting and whether managers affiliated with Rust Movie Productions complied with state workplace safety regulations.

His inspection produced a scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including observations that weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions about additional safety training and didn’t respond to Gutierrez-Reed’s complaints. The report also found that managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting and requests to provide more training.

Defense attorneys argue the Gutierrez-Reed, who has pleaded not guilty, is being unfairly scapegoated for problems beyond her control on the set of “Rust,” including Baldwin’s handling of the weapons on the set of the Western movie in 2021.

Montoya said Gutierrez-Reed’s requests for more resources as an armorer went unheeded.

“Rust Movie Productions identified a hazard,” Montoya said. “They adopted firearms safety policies, but they totally failed to enforce them, train their employees on them, practice them, reference them. Nothing. They adopted it, and it stopped at the word adoption. Nothing further happened.”

In a counterpoint to those findings, prosecutors previously introduced testimony from on-set producer Gabrielle Pickle that she responded to gun-safety concerns on the set of “Rust” by providing more days – 10 days, increased from five – for Gutierrez-Reed to devote to her armorer duties, instead of other responsibilities in the props department.

Prosecutors say Gutierrez-Reed is to blame for unwittingly bringing live ammunition on set and that she flouted basic safety protocols for weapons handling.

Dozens of witnesses have testified at a trial that began with jury selection on Feb. 21, including eyewitnesses to the shooting, FBI evidence analysts, an ammunition supplier to “Rust,” and the film director who was wounded in the shooting and survived.

Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer on “Rust,” was separately indicted by a grand jury last month on an involuntary manslaughter charge in connection with the fatal shooting of Hutchins. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled for July.

Baldwin was pointing the gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal on the set outside of Santa Fe when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Rust Movie Productions paid a $100,000 fine to resolve the state workplace safety findings.

A second charge against Gutierrez-Reed of evidence tampering stems from accusations that she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection.

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