Actor Alec Baldwin and a weapons specialist will be charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting that killed a female cinematographer on a New Mexico film set, prosecutors announced Thursday, citing “criminal disregard for safety.”
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies released a statement announcing the charges against Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who supervised guns on the set of the western movie “Rust.”
Halyna Hutchins died shortly after being injured during rehearsals at a ranch outside Santa Fe on October 21, 2021. Baldwin was pointing the gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza.
Assistant principal David Halls, who gave Baldwin the gun, signed an agreement to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon, the district attorney’s office said.
Manslaughter or manslaughter can involve a death that occurs when a defendant does something that is legal, but dangerous and acts recklessly or carelessly.
The charge is a felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine, according to New Mexico law. The charges also include a clause that could result in a mandatory five-year prison sentence because the crime was committed with a firearm.
Carmack-Altwies said the charges will be filed by the end of January, and that Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed will receive summonses to appear in court. She said prosecutors will refrain from convening a grand jury and will leave it up to a judge to determine if there is probable cause to move to trial.
Andrea Reeb, a special prosecutor in the case, argued a “criminal pattern of disregard for security” on the film set.
“If any of those three people, Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez Reed or David Halls, had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive now. It’s that simple,” said Reeb, who is also a newly elected Republican lawmaker.
Baldwin’s attorney said the charges represent “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
The actor “had no reason to believe that there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the set. He trusted the professionals he worked with, who assured him that the gun did not contain real bullets. He will fight these charges and we will win,” Luke Nikas said in a statement.
Gutierrez Reed’s attorney said the charges were “the result of a very flawed investigation and an inaccurate understanding of the actual facts.”
“We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe that Hannah will be exonerated of the crime by a jury,” Jason Bowles said.
Santa Fe County Police Chief Adan Mendoza, who led the first investigation into Hutchins’ death, described “a degree of negligence” on the film set. But he left decisions on possible criminal charges to prosecutors after delivering the results of a year-long investigation in October. That report did not specify how a live bullet ended up on the set.
Baldwin — famous for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” as well as his parody of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” — has said the death was a “tragic accident”.
He sought to clean up his reputation by suing the people involved in the handling and supply of the loaded gun he was given. Baldwin, who is also a co-producer of “Rust,” said he was told the gun was safe to use.
In his lawsuit, Baldwin alleges that, while working on camera angles with Hutchins during rehearsal for a scene, he pointed the gun in the direction of the cinematographer and pulled back on the firing pin, which fired.
The New Mexico Coroner’s Office determined the shooting was an accident after conducting an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.
The New Mexico Office of Occupational Safety and Health imposed a maximum fine against Rust Movie Productions after finding serious safety lapses, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two unplanned salvo shots in the set before the fatal shooting.
Rust Movie Productions continues to fight a $137,000 fine imposed by regulators who say on-set production managers failed to follow industry-standard protocols for firearms safety.
The gunsmith who oversaw the firearms on set, Gutierrez Reed, has been the subject of much scrutiny in the case, along with an independent ammunition supplier. An attorney for Gutierrez Reed has said she did not put live ammunition in the gun that killed Hutchins, and she believes she was the victim of sabotage. Authorities said they have found no evidence of that.
Investigators initially found 500 rounds of ammunition on the film’s set, a mix of blanks, blanks and what appeared to be live bullets. Industry experts pointed out that there should never have been any real bullets on the set.
In April 2022, the Santa Fe Police Department released various files, including video taken by officers of Hutchins fatally wounded and nearly unconscious as a medical helicopter arrived. Witness interrogations, emails, text message conversations, ammunition inventories, and hundreds of photographs completed that evidence.
State workplace safety regulators said safety concerns with women immediately arose when “Rust” halted filming, and that a return to filming in New Mexico will be accompanied by new safety inspections.
The Hutchins family — widower Matthew Hutchins and his son Andros — have reached a legal agreement with the producers under which they will seek to restart filming with Matthew Hutchins as executive producer.
“Rust” has been plagued with disputes since its inception, in early October 2021. Seven members of the production team left the set hours before the fatal shooting amid dispute over working conditions.
Hutchins’ death has influenced negotiations over clauses in contracts with film workers’ unions with Hollywood producers and has led other filmmakers to prefer computer-generated imagery over actual guns with salutes to minimize risk.