An attorney for Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has suggested a “disgruntled” crew member placed a live round in Alec Baldwin’s firearm to deliberately sabotage the film set.
Jason Bowles, a former federal prosecutor, made the claim on the Today show on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after Mr Baldwin shot dead cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
“We know there was a live round in a box of dummy rounds that shouldn’t have been there, at least one live round,” Mr Bowles said.
“We’re assuming somebody put the live round in that box – which, if you think about that, the person who put the live round in the box of dummy rounds had to have the purpose of sabotaging the set.”
“There’s no other reason that you would do that – that you would mix that live round in with a dummy round.
“I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, want to prove a point, want to say that they’re disgruntled, they’re unhappy.”
Mr Bowles referenced reports that the Rust set was rife with disputes over safety measures, which drove crew members to organise a strike with seven walking off hours before the 21 October shooting.
“We know that people had already walked up to set the day before, and they had been and then they’re unhappy,” he said.
“That is the central question to this case … how did a live round get on set, and who put that live round on the set?”
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office has been working to answer that same question, and thus far has not provided any hints as to who they believe might be responsible.
Last week investigators confirmed that the gun was touched by four people in the moments before Mr Baldwin discharged a “lead projectile” that killed Ms Hutchins and wounded Rust director Joel Souza. Those four people are Mr Baldwin, Ms Gutierrez-Reed, assistant director David Halls and prop master Sarah Zachry.
Ms Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys, Mr Bowles and Robert Gorence, previously said she has “no idea” where the live round came from and blamed producers for the “unsafe” set.
“Safety is Hannah’s number one priority on set. Ultimately this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from,” the attorneys said in a statement.
Court documents asserted that Mr Halls, the assistant director, shouted “cold gun” as he handed the firearm to Mr Baldwin to indicate to the film crew that the weapon had no live rounds. A search warrant affidavit has revealed that Mr Halls told authorities that he should have been more thorough when checking the gun after he noticed a difference in the rounds.
However, on Monday Mr Halls’ attorney said it was not responsibility to check the gun prior to giving it to Mr Baldwin.
Ms Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys said the weapons used on set were locked away at night as well as during lunch breaks, but they added that she was stretched thin and that she pushed for more training while juggling multiple roles.
“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armourer,” they said. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings.”
Investigators seized about 500 rounds of ammunition from the Rust set and are working to determine if any of those are live. Previous reports claimed that crew members had taken prop guns out for target practice on the morning of the shooting.
At a press conference last week, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said it was too early to rule out the possibility of criminal charges in the case, including for Mr Baldwin. Legal experts have said he could also be held liable in civil court as a producer.
The actor on Tuesday shared a crew member’s Instagram post denying reports that the set had “unsafe, chaotic conditions”.
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