Attorneys for Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who is being investigated by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in the wake of the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by a prop gun fired by Alec Baldwin, told NBC Today on Wednesday that they are investigating whether a live round was placed in a box of dummy bullets with the intent to “sabotage” the shoot.
“I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, want to prove a point, want to say they’re disgruntled, they’re unhappy,” told Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney, Jason Bowles, to NBC Today. “And we know that people had already walked up to set the day before,” the lawyer added. In recent days it was announced that part of the crew complained about poor work conditions.
Bowles added: “You can’t rule anybody out at this point.”
“We know there was a live round in a box of dummy rounds that shouldn’t have been there,” Bowles continued. “We have people who had left the set, who had walked out because they were disgruntled. We have a time frame between 11 [a.m.] and 1 [p.m.], approximately, that day, in which the firearms at times were unattended, so there was opportunity to tamper with this scene.”
Last Friday, authorities found at least one .45-caliber bullet in a truck at the location. Robert Gorence, Gutierrez-Reed’s second attorney, mentioned that the truck was “completely unattended at all times, giving someone access and opportunity.”
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said last week that there was “some complacency” in the way weapons were handled on set. Investigators allegedly found around 500 rounds of ammunition — a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and possible live rounds — even though the set’s firearms specialist, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, said there should never have been real ammunition on site.
Gorence also stressed that Gutierrez-Reed didn’t know where the live rounds came from and reiterated that his client couldn’t focus on her work as she was exhausted from having two jobs on set. Rust was her second film as chief armorer. Through her legal team, she also blamed the producers for the allegedly unsafe working conditions.
Mendoza told Today last week that most of the investigation is focused on Gutierrez-Reed and first assistant director David Halls, who allegedly handed the pistol to Baldwin yelling “cold gun,” indicating that the weapon was safe to use.
Director Joel Souza, who was also injured in the incident, stated that Baldwin was drawing a revolver and pointing it at a camera during rehearsal on the set of Rust when the gun went off and hit the cinematographer in the chest.
Mendoza confirmed that Baldwin was given a gun loaded with real ammunition.
Speaking on the Today show, Mendoza was asked if that statement was correct given the evidence that has been collected in the case thus far. “No, obviously it isn’t,” he said. “That was a live round that struck and killed Ms. Hutchins so that’s not an accurate statement as far as I’m concerned.”
According to a report from site The Wrap, members of the cast and crew allegedly used some of the weapons in their spare time to shoot for leisure.
While that would explain how the real cartridges got mixed up with the fake ones, Mendoza was unable to confirm that the crew used the weapons for target practice when he spoke at a press conference last Wednesday. However, he claimed that the rumors were being investigated.
In the Today interview, Mendoza noted that the current focus of the investigation is on the people who handled the gun before Hutchin’s death. In addition, he stated that the case is centered on how the live ammunition ended up in the revolver.
There have been no arrests or charges filed to date. Mendoza said there were about 100 people on set who will be questioned. Authorities have said it will take a lot of work to get to a point where charges can be considered.