State Rests in “Rust” Armorer Case

Jury hears from PDQ Arm and Prop owner Seth Kenney and a crew member who alleges Hannah Gutierrez-Reed handed off suspected narcotics

Drugs and ammunition were the hot topics as New Mexico wrapped its arguments Monday against former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed after seven full days of testimony from 33 witnesses.

Gutierrez-Reed faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ death because prosecutors contend she was negligent in her duty to ensure prop guns and ammunition used on set were safe. Rather than using dummy rounds as expected, she allegedly loaded a live round into a gun later discharged by Alec Baldwin, which struck and killed Hutchins.

Seth Kenney, who as owner of PDQ Arm and Prop in Albuquerque provided guns and dummy rounds to the production, was among the last to take the stand. In his testimony, Kenney told jurors he personally inspected all of the .45 Long Colt dummy rounds he provided to Rust and did not supply live ammunition for the movie, noting live ammunition found on the set did not match the live ammunition found when law enforcement executed a search warrant on his business. He said, however, that Gutierrez-Reed told him in conversation and text message that she took her own .45 Long Colt rounds to the set.

“It was the same supply that she had gotten from Thell [Reed] that she used on The Old Way,” Kenney testified, referencing Gutierrez-Reed’s father—also an armorer—and a movie she had worked on prior to Rust. Thell Reed’s name appears on a list of potential witnesses for the defense, who are set to begin testimony Tuesday.

While Kenney wasn’t on the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set until after the fatal shooting Oct. 21, 2021, he detailed unplanned events with weapons that took place days earlier. On Oct. 16, prop master Sarah Zachry was attempting to load a rifle with blanks when she discharged the weapon. That led to a text disagreement between Kenney and Gutierrez-Reed, he said.

After that, Kenney said he had no communication with Gutierrez-Reed before the day Hutchins’ died. Special Prosecutor Kari Morrissey asked why, and he told jurors it was because “it was clear [Gutierrez-Reed] was emotional.”

“She sent me a text message back that had a number of expletives associated with it,” Kenney said. “I just felt that she needed some space…and I was going to give it some time.”

But Kenney and Gutierrez-Reed never reconciled. As investigators dug into the events that led to the shooting, Kenney said he “started to sense that there were efforts to redistribute blame or the cause of this accident,” because of statements made during an appearance from defense attorney Jason Bowles and Reed on a morning news show. (Though Kenney didn’t name the show, Bowles and Reed appeared on Good Morning America on Dec. 7, 2021 and alleged “sabotage” was at play.)

Morrissey then asked if he felt “targeted.”

Kenney responded: “That’s difficult to answer. Knowing Thell and having been friends with him a few years at that point, I understood who he was and how much he loves his daughter. So I felt like that was about to happen and that was essentially to try to pin the live ammunition on the set of Rust that somehow came through me.”

He said it became “quite clear” he was being blamed when Gutierrez-Reed and Bowles filed a lawsuit against him arguing he had supplied the live ammunition on the Rust set. The case was later dismissed.

During cross examination, Bowles asked whether Kenney recalled wanting to fire Gutierrez-Reed after the disagreement over the accidental discharge.

“It wouldn’t be for me to fire her. She can tell me to go to hell all day long, and it wouldn’t make a difference to the Rust production,” Kenney said. “If Rust production is happy, and they were, Sarah Zachry said, ‘she’s a great armorer.’”

When Bowles asked again if he remembered stating during an interview with investigators he wanted the armorer fired, Kenney said there were “some mixed emotions in the situation.”

“If I really wanted her fired, I could’ve gotten her fired,” he added.

In addition to the manslaughter charge, prosecutors accused Gutierrez-Reed of evidence tampering because another crew member said she asked her to conceal drugs.

Testimony about that portion of the case finally emerged from the witness pool Monday as Rebecca Smith, who worked in key craft services on the set of Rust, told jurors she was staying at the same hotel as the armorer. Smith said she visited Gutierrez-Reed’s room at the request of other Rust crew who didn’t want to leave her alone because she appeared “distraught” from the shooting earlier in the day. Smith described key craft services as “basically a set mom,” making coffee for cast and crew; providing sunscreen or chapstick; and other duties.

Smith said she informed Gutierrez-Reed about Hutchins’ death—up to that point crew members only knew she had been taken to a hospital—and stayed for “a while,” but told jurors something “unusual” happened as she got up to leave.

“[Gutierrez-Reed] asked me if I could hold onto something for her,” Smith said. “She put it in my hand, and I walked out as there was a knock on the door.”

She told jurors after she left Gutierrez-Reed’s hotel room, she inspected the item the armorer handed to her.

“It was a clear Ziploc baggie with a green, small Ziploc baggie inside, and there was powder inside the green baggy,” Smith said.

Smith told jurors she suspected the substance inside the baggie was cocaine and threw it out in a hallway trash can. When Morrissey asked Smith why she threw out the baggie, she said she was a recovering addict.

“I can’t have it in my possession, and I was really very offended,” Smith said. “I didn’t want anything to do with the situation anymore.”

She then testified she received several messages from Gutierrez-Reed asking for her things back. Smith said she didn’t tell law enforcement at first because she didn’t want to be involved if she didn’t have to be. Later, she gave a statement to Morrissey about the incident.

During cross examination, defense attorneys questioned how Smith could make the determination the powder substance was cocaine from a glance.

“In reality, it could’ve been a number of other white powders, correct?” Bowles asked before asking whether it could be creatine—a protein powder—or maybe sugar.

“Yes,” Smith responded.

During a brief redirect, Smith said she had never seen powdered sugar packaged the way the baggie Gutierrez-Reed gave to her was, but she had seen cocaine packaged that way. Morrissey then asked if during the time Smith spoke to the armorer she had said she was “extremely worried” about Hutchins’ death.

“She was concerned about her career,” Smith said. “She was concerned about being prosecuted because somebody got shot.”

If convicted of both charges, Gutierrez-Reed faces up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer anticipates closing arguments from attorneys by March 7. Defense attorneys will begin their arguments tomorrow at 10 am.

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