The film industry was rocked today with the announcement that actor Alec Baldwin and weapons specialist, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on a New Mexico movie set. According to a statement by Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, the charges stem from a “criminal disregard for safety.”
The incident occurred on October 21, 2021, on the set of the Western film “Rust.” During rehearsals at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe, Halyna Hutchins died shortly after being wounded when Baldwin, who was pointing a pistol at her, accidentally discharged the weapon, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza. Assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun, has signed an agreement to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Involuntary manslaughter can involve a killing that happens while a defendant is doing something that is lawful but dangerous and is acting negligently or without caution. The charge is a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine under New Mexico law. The charges also include a provision that could result in a mandatory five years in prison because the offense was committed with a gun.
Carmack-Altwies said charges will be filed by the end of January, and that Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed will be issued a summons to appear in court. She said prosecutors will forgo a grand jury and rely on a judge to determine if there is probable cause to move toward trial.
Andrea Reeb, a special prosecutor on the case, cited a “pattern of criminal disregard for safety” on the film set.
“If any one of these three people — Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez Reed or David Halls — had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” said Reeb, also a newly sworn Republican state legislator.
Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, called the charges “a terrible miscarriage of justice.” Baldwin had previously described the incident as a “tragic accident.” He had sought to clear his name by suing people involved in handling and supplying the loaded gun that was handed to him. Baldwin, also a co-producer on “Rust,” said he was told the gun was safe.
New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator determined the shooting was an accident following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.
New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has levied the maximum fine against Rust Movie Productions, based on a scathing narrative of safety failures, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires of blank ammunition on the set prior to the fatal shooting. Rust Movie Productions continues to challenge the basis of a $137,000 fine by regulatory authorities.
This tragic incident has raised serious questions about safety protocols on movie sets.
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