“Rust” First Assistant Director Testifies For State

David Halls tells jurors armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed handed Alec Baldwin the weapon that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins; considered set “relatively safe”

Rust first assistant director David Halls recounted the day of the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins to jurors and discussed set safety Thursday afternoon on the witness stand in the First Judicial District Court trial against the set armorer.

Halls told jurors armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed handed Baldwin the revolver that killed the cinematographer on Oct. 21, 2021. Baldwin, both the film’s star and producer, initially told investigators the same thing, but later said Halls had given him the gun.

Gutierrez-Reed was typically diligent in her duties on the set up to the time of the shooting, Halls testified, noting she made an “impressive” safety presentation at the start of production.

“The normal every day—every moment there was a firearm that was being handed to an actor, she would always bring the firearm,” Halls said.

Gutierrez-Reed faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering. Special Prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis argue she was negligent in her duty to ensure prop guns and ammunition used on set were safe.

In clips from interviews with investigators shared in court Feb. 28, she told investigators she loaded the single-action revolver that killed Hutchins. Baldwin maintains he did not pull the trigger. He also faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in a separate case scheduled for trial beginning July 10.

Halls, who signed a plea agreement admitting to negligent use of a deadly weapon early in the investigation process and served six months of unsupervised probation as a result, told jurors Baldwin had the unloaded gun in chest holster during morning filming involving child actor Brady Noon.

Then, after lunch, Gutierrez-Reed loaded ammunition in the weapon and together, she and Halls checked the weapon as she spun the cylinder. But he didn’t “recall her fully rotating the cylinder.” Halls said he only saw three to four rounds in the chamber. Then the defendant walked off, he said.

He recounted that Hutchins was “3 feet to his left” when the gun discharged. Gutierrez-Reed was not in the building.

“My thought was that a blank round had been loaded,” he said, noting one had killed The Crow’s Brandon Lee on set in 1993. “A live round just wasn’t something I could compute in my mind.”

He told jurors that when he asked Hutchins if she was all right, she responded: “I can’t feel my legs.”

Halls said he exited the church, but returned to retrieve the gun, which he carried to Gutierrez-Reed’s prop cart outside the building. When she unloaded the gun, he said, he saw five dummy rounds and a shell casing that had “a completely distinctive-looking end to it.” It was metallic gray and “more contemporary” than he recalled other rounds on set were, Halls testified.

When Morrissey asked him why Halls agreed to testify despite his probation ending in October of last year, he said it was important to him “that the truth be known—that Halyna’s husband and son and her family know the truth of what happened. It’s important that the cast and the crew and the producers of Rust know what happened,” he said. “And it’s important that the industry knows what happened so that this never happens again.”

During cross examination, defense attorney Jason Bowles asked if Halls remembered safety bulletins that outlined if the armorer and props manager were not present, the responsibility of firearms safety fell to him.

Halls responded: “I don’t recall seeing any language about the assistant director taking responsibility if the prop master or armorer are not present.”

He went further during a redirect from Morrissey, saying “I only know she’s left if she tells me she’s leaving or I see her leave.”

During his testimony, the first assistant director also told jurors he considered the Rust set to be safe until the day of the on-set shooting.

Bowles questioned this, citing a report from the state Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau that recommended “a Willful-serious citation” and financial penalties for Rust Productions, LLC. The state laid down a $136,793 civil penalty—the maximum fine allowed by state law.

“Rust Movie Productions, LLC, demonstrated plain indifference to the hazards associated with firearms by routinely failing to practice their own safety protocols, failing to enforce adherence to safety protocols, and failing to ensure that the handling of deadly weapons was afforded the time and effort needed to keep the cast and crew safe,” the report read. “Additionally, the Employer disregarded or otherwise did not follow-up, ask questions, or try to understand what happened when employees notified management about the misfire incidents and not feeling safe on set. The Safety Coordinator was present on set and took no direct action to address safety concerns. Management was provided multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so.”

Several witnesses testified the camera crew had walked off the job the day before the fatal shooting over safety concerns and had returned that morning to claim personal items, which caused a delay to the planned start of production.

The OSHA report also cites an instance where Gutierrez-Reed and Rust line producer Gabrielle Pickle, who testified Feb. 28, exchanged emails where Pickle expressed concern about the amount of time the armorer was spending on those duties “and not supporting props as needed” and also noted two instances where weapons were left unattended after scenes.

Gutierrez-Reed called her role as armorer “a very serious job” in her response. Producers had hired her in a dual role as props assistant as well.

“Since we’ve started I’ve had a lot of days where my job should only be to focus on the guns and everyone’s safety,” she wrote. “There are working guns on set every day and those are ultimately going to be a priority because when they are not that’s when dangerous mistakes can happen.”

Ross Addiego, a member of the Rust camera crew, testified Feb. 26 about several safety concerns—including accidental discharges—during the less than two weeks of filming for Rust, which he complained about to higher ups in production in the early stage of filming. He filed a civil lawsuit alongside two other members of the crew against the Rust production company arguing it failed to follow industry safety protocol.

Props Master Sarah Zachry began testimony directly after Halls and awaits cross examination from defense when court returns tomorrow at 8:30 am.

District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer expects the trial to last until March 8. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Gutierrez-Reed faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Prosecutors added the evidence tampering charge because another person from the movie production claims Gutierrez-Reed handed off suspected narcotics before investigators questioned her.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the story gave incorrect information about child actor Patrick Scott McDermott. McDermott’s publicist tells SFR he was hired to play the role in Rust after the shooting incident.

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