‘Rust’ movie armorer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter

LOS ANGELES — A movie set weapons handler who loaded a gun for actor Alec Baldwin before it fired and killed a cinematographer has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was found not guilty of a second charge — tampering with evidence over the 2021 shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust.

The 26-year-old could now face up to 18 months in prison.

Baldwin also faces a manslaughter trial over the fatality.

Ms Hutchins, 42, was killed after a gun Baldwin used in a rehearsal fired a live round on the set of the Western in New Mexico.

Gutierrez-Reed remained expressionless as she learned her fate.

As she was led away by two officers she told her weeping mother, “It’ll be OK,” according to Reuters.

Ms Hutchins’ parents and her sister said they were “satisfied” with the verdict.

Their statement added: “We look forward to the justice system continuing to make sure that everyone else who is responsible for Halyna’s death is required to face the legal consequences for their actions.”

The conviction of Gutierrez-Reed is likely to be seen as good news for Baldwin.

His attorneys can now argue that it was not foreseeable for their client that there was a live round on set because that was the responsibility of the armorer.

Prosecutors said Gutierrez-Reed had failed to ensure the weapon was only loaded with dummy rounds — fake bullets used to look and sound like real ones.

“This case is about constant, never-ending safety failures that resulted in the death of a human being,” prosecutor Kari T Morrissey said during closing arguments on Wednesday.

Gutierrez-Reed was “negligent”, “careless” and “thoughtless” when she failed to notice that live bullets had mixed with dummy rounds in a box of ammunition on set, Ms Morrissey told the jurors.

One of those bullets was in the firearm that was used by Baldwin, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also presented evidence that Gutierrez-Reed had brought a box of live bullets to the New Mexico film set from her California home. They said these live rounds slowly spread throughout the set over the course of 12 days.

Ms Morrissey said she believed the armorer did not intend to bring live rounds to the set, but rather that Ms Hutchins’ death was a case of tragic negligence.

The prosecutor added that Gutierrez-Reed was more “worried about her career” and less about the victims in the aftermath of the shooting.

Gutierrez-Reed did not testify in the two-week trial, but her lawyer said in closing arguments that prosecutors had failed to prove his client was the sole person responsible for the fatal shooting.

“The [ammunition] boxes don’t matter, because we don’t know what was in them three or four days before,” her lawyer, Jason Bowles told the jury, arguing his client did not know that there were real bullets on set.

Bowles also blamed Baldwin, arguing that he had “gone off-script” when he pointed the gun at film crew.

“It was not in the script for Baldwin to point the weapon,” he said. “She didn’t know that Baldwin was going to do what he did.”

He vowed to file an appeal.

Trial witnesses included the film’s director, Joel Souza, who was also shot in the incident but survived.

Souza said he remembered looking up at Gutierrez-Reed after he was shot, and hearing her repeatedly say: “I’m sorry, Joel.”

The jury was also shown emotional and distressing footage of the aftermath of the shooting, when the Colt .45 revolver held by Baldwin went off.

It included a video that appeared to show Ms Hutchins’ final moments, with paramedics frantically trying to save her life.

Gutierrez-Reed was also found not guilty of evidence tampering stemming from accusations that she attempted to dispose of a small bag of narcotics after the shooting.

Last year, the movie’s cast and crew finished filming in tribute to Ms Hutchins, with her husband serving as an executive producer. — BBC

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