In ‘Rust’ Investigation, It Is Imperative to Let the Facts Speak

·3-min read

There are still so many unanswered questions as to what led to the devastating death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” — the most salient being how live ammunition got into the gun that killed her and wounded director Joel Souza.

Last week came the shocking revelation from an Oct. 27 search warrant affidavit that the film’s first assistant director, David Halls, acknowledged to investigators that he had failed to check the weapon for live rounds before handing it to star Alec Baldwin and declaring it a “cold gun,” meaning it was safe to fire.

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In the aftermath of the shooting, there have been several press reports calling into question Halls’ reputation and conduct on previous sets.

We ran a story on Oct. 29 in which a crew member told our reporter Gene Maddaus that he had warned the producers of “Rust” that Halls was cavalier about set safety on an earlier movie called “One Way.” His chilling quote read: “‘That man is a liability,’ the crew member recalled saying. ‘He’s going to fucking kill someone someday, and you’re going to be responsible.’”

That Oct. 27 search warrant affidavit also included details from an interview with Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer responsible for overseeing the guns on the “Rust” production. She told investigators that live ammunition was not used on the set, but Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said in a press conference that day that multiple live rounds were possibly recovered from the scene, in addition to the one that took Hutchins’ life and struck Souza’s shoulder.

Given that the investigation by Santa Fe authorities into what exactly happened on the set that day at Bonanza Creek Ranch is still underway and it is yet to be determined who will be held accountable, it stunned me that both Halls and Gutierrez Reed decided to speak out publicly for the first time since the fatal shooting.

Halls issued a statement to the New York Post on Nov. 1 paying his respects to Hutchins, and also saying how he hopes the tragedy “prompts the industry to reevaluate its values and practices to ensure no one is harmed through the creative process again.”

Late last week, Gutierrez Reed spoke out publicly through her attorneys, also extending her “deepest and most sincere condolences” to Hutchins’ family, and at the same time defending her reputation and conduct on set. “She would like to address some untruths that have been told to the media, which have falsely portrayed her and slandered her,” said the statement, which went on to state, “Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from.” She then appears to point fingers at the “production and her department,” saying she was “overruled” when she “fought for training, days to maintain weapons, and proper time to prepare for gunfire.” The statement promised to further address the rumors and “whole incident” this week.

I get why people want to protect their own reputation, and there’s certainly a time and place for that, but why Gutierrez Reed and Halls felt compelled to do that before all the facts come to light is beyond me.

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