Attorneys for 'Rust' armorer say she was pressured to work in unsafe environment

"She was demanding the training occur, she was asking for it."

February 2, 2023, 12:56 AM

Attorneys for the "Rust" film armorer charged with involuntary manslaughter Tuesday said she felt "extreme pressure" to work within an irresponsible culture that resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and actor Alec Baldwin were both charged Tuesday with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico. First assistant director David Halls has already agreed to plead no contest for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Attorney Jason Bowles said Halls "rushed" Gutierrez-Reed "all the time," which did not allow her to do a full safety check on the gun held by Baldwin that fatally killed Hutchins. His client was waiting on Halls to call her back to the church where the scene was scheduled to be filmed and where she expected to perform a full check on the gun.

According to her, she never got the call.

Gutierrez-Reed "didn't even know that Baldwin was there with the gun. So for the DA's office to blame Hannah for failing to do something … it's insane," Bowles told ABC News.

PHOTO: This handout file image courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office released April 25, 2022, and part of the investigative files, shows actor Alec Baldwin being processed in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This handout file image courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office released April 25, 2022, and part of the investigative files, shows actor Alec Baldwin being processed after the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/AFP via Getty Images

In an exclusive with ABC News, Bowles and attorney Todd Bullion characterized the "Rust" set as negligent regarding its safety and blamed the culture on Halls, who they said insisted on having a "real gun" on the set and ignored Gutierrez-Reed's request to be called to the set when it was time to use the Colt .45 in a scene.

Halls, Bowles said, "handed the gun to Baldwin and didn't do the check himself. He admitted that had Hannah been called back in [he] would have prevented this tragedy. That's a David Halls failure."

Amid the allegations by Gutierrez-Reed's attorneys, Halls' legal team said, "You can quote anything in the public record." Lisa Torraco, attorney for Dave Halls, told ABC News earlier that Halls was responsible for "announcing that there's a firearm on set" but denied he was responsible for the handling of the weapon to Baldwin.

Law enforcement said Halls, Baldwin, and Gutierrez-Reed were the only three people who handled the gun on the set. Halls testified in a deposition in December with attorneys from the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau that he checked the gun and did not "have any recollection" announcing the gun was "cold," indicating it did not contain live rounds. "I have recollections of Hannah saying it," he testified.

Gutierrez-Reed contradicts those claims, her attorneys say. Prosecutors said Baldwin has given contradicting statements to media and law enforcement, first telling police he received the gun from Gutierrez-Reed and later saying it came from Halls and that Halls told him it was a "cold gun."

Bowles said the charges brought against Baldwin are appropriate because he failed to follow the appropriate training when handling a firearm. Despite following the required hour-long training, it lasted 30 minutes because Baldwin was texting his family throughout, according to court documents.

"She was demanding the training occur, she was asking for it, pleading that the training occurred. They didn't allow her to do it," he said.

The Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP, FILE

When reached for comment, Baldwin's attorney directed ABC News to his Jan. 19 statement. "Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun -- or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win," attorney Luke Nikas said.

Despite her concerns over a reckless safety culture, Gutierrez-Reed did not feel comfortable demanding that protocols be met because of her junior status. Investigator Robert Shilling wrote in the statement of probable cause that she was unqualified because she had "no certification or certifiable training, or union 'card' for this practice," and the production violated industry practices by also assigning her assistant prop master duties, which meant she could not focus primarily on her armorer duties.

Bowles rejected the suggestion that Gutierrez-Reed, 24, was not capable of safety measures because of lack of experience. "She was absolutely qualified to work in this film," he said, because she received training from Thell Reed, her father, a veteran armorer and weapons specialist whose credits include "Tombstone," "Django: Unchained," "3:10 to Yuma," and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."

"Everybody has to start somewhere. That didn't mean she wasn't trained or capable of doing this job," said Bowles. He added she was simply "trying to follow orders" because "Rust" presented her the "opportunity to get her union certification to then be certified" as a professional armorer.

"She's trying to do her job. And she's being made to do certain things that she's fighting against," he said. "So when you have a 30-year veteran [like Halls] telling her 'you're going to do this.' That's what she did."

ABC News' Vera Drymon contributed to this report.

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