Witness at Trial Recounts Fatal Shooting of Cinematographer by Alec Baldwin

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
February 27, 2024US News
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Witness at Trial Recounts Fatal Shooting of Cinematographer by Alec Baldwin
Defendant Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, former armorer on the set of the movie "Rust", walks back to her seat after speaking with District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer before her trial at District Court in Santa Fe, N.M., on Feb. 26, 2024. (Luis Sánchez Saturn0/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool)

SANTA FE, N.M.—Testimony at trial Monday turned emotional and argumentative as an eyewitness recounted the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin during a movie rehearsal and described gun misfires, crew members walking out and a “ludicrous” pace of work.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was the armorer for the upcoming Western movie “Rust,” is fighting charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence at a trial that entered its third day of testimony Monday. A trial date was set for Baldwin in July on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorneys highlighted Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s unusual disadvantage and vulnerability at the time as a part-time, 24-year-old armorer without trade-union membership on a set where few dared confront Baldwin directly about concerns about safety and related budgeting.

Monday’s testimony veered into the actor’s handling of the revolver that killed Hutchins—including a video of Mr. Baldwin twice practicing a cross-draw maneuver for a camera on Oct. 21, 2021, shortly before the fatal shooting that day. Investigators found no video of the shooting.

The video of Mr. Baldwin was accompanied by searing testimony from Ross Addiego, a front-line “Rust” crew member who helped guide the film’s camera. Mr. Addiego said that in the moments after a shot rang out on set, he made eye contact with a wounded Hutchins and tried to calm wounded director Joel Souza.

“The first person I made eye contact with was Halyna, who was clearly injured. In fact, she was starting to go flush and I think holding her right side,” said Mr. Addiego, breaking into tears. “I think I yelled out, ‘If you can’t help, get … out of here, and someone call 911.’”

Prosecutors guided Mr. Addiego through testimony in which he described his anger and frustration with safety procedures on set, including the sight of a storage cart for guns and ammunition that frequently appeared to be unattended and Gutierrez-Reed’s work as an armorer in charge of loading guns with blank and dummy rounds. Investigators found six live rounds on the set of “Rust,” including the one that killed Hutchins.

Mr. Addiego noted two gun misfires on set—confirmed as blank rounds without projectiles by workplace safety regulators—and just one safety meeting over the course about two work weeks, when daily meetings are the norm.

He said prior to the fatal shooting he lodged safety complaints with union representatives and the film’s top safety official, assistant director David Halls, who pleaded no contest last year to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and may be called on to testify.

“At times we seemed to be working at ludicrous speeds,” said Mr. Addiego, who also testified to the grand jury that indicted Mr. Baldwin in January. “We always seemed to be rushed and under the gun.”

In a tense cross-examination, defense attorney Jason Bowles asked Mr. Addiego whether he was aware that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed had unsuccessfully requested more time for focus on her responsibilities as armorer instead of other prop duties, such as rolling cowboy cigarettes.

“Did you ever stand up to Mr. Baldwin and say, ‘No, we’re not going to move this fast?’” Bowles asked.

“That’s not my job,” Mr. Addiego said.

Mr. Bowles continued: “With everybody else, grown men, not standing up to Mr. Baldwin, wouldn’t you find that difficult for her also?”

He noted that Mr. Addiego has sued Mr. Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions and questioned his motives in testifying.

“Are you hoping that you can come in and testify here today and something happens to Ms. Gutierrez-Reed and it will help your lawsuit?” Mr. Bowles asked.

“I’m hoping for justice, sir,” Mr. Addiego responded. “Two people where injured on a film set. That has affected not only me, that has affected the film industry.”

Also on Monday, prosecutors called on a series of FBI forensic experts in firearms, fingerprinting, gunpowder and DNA-evidence tracing to testify about their examination of a revolver and ammunition seized from the “Rust” set and an ammunition supplier to the film based in Albuquerque.

Prosecutors argue that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed is to blame for bringing live ammunition on set. They say six live rounds found on the “Rust” set bear identical characteristics—and don’t match live rounds seized from the movie’s supplier in Albuquerque.

Defense attorneys for Ms. Gutierrez-Reed have pointed out shortcomings in the collection of evidence from the set, and say that ammunition supplier Seth Kenney wasn’t properly investigated, and never submitted fingerprints.

FBI firearms expert Bryce Ziegler testified about his analysis of a gun held by Mr. Baldwin in the shooting. He said the revolver and its safety features were fully functional when it arrived at an FBI laboratory for testing.

“When I received the firearm and I did an initial function examination, it did not appear that any of the safeties were malfunctioning or anything like that,” Mr. Ziegler said.

But Mr. Ziegler described additional “accidental discharge testing” on the gun in response to Baldwin’s assertions that the gun went off when he did not press the trigger. Mr. Ziegler said the only way he could get the gun to fire without pulling the trigger was by striking the gun with a mallet, knowing that it could break under the procedure and receiving permission to proceed.

“The function of that test is to see if I can get this firearm to fire without actually pulling the trigger,” Mr. Ziegler said.

“As I tested in my laboratory, it would not fire without pulling the trigger in the full-cocked setting, without being broken,” he said.

By Morgan Lee

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