Attorneys for the armorer on the movie “Rust,” where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot by Alec Baldwin, suggested Wednesday the tragedy may have been the result of someone “sabotaging the set” by placing a live round among the ammo that was loaded into the prop gun fired by the actor.
Attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, who represent armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, went on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday and also spoke to The New York Times, though they did not present any specific evidence of foul play.
They said they are investigating a possible scenario in which a box of ammo that had been marked as dummy rounds — from which Gutierrez-Reed loaded the weapon later fired by Baldwin — could have been tampered with by an unknown third party who put a live round in the box.
There had been earlier reports of crew members walking off the set in protest of working conditions.
In addition, the lawyers said the gun was one of three that had been left unattended for about two hours on the day of the shooting, creating a window for possible sabotage.
“I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, want to prove (a) point, want to say that they’re disgruntled, they’re unhappy. And we know that people had walked off the set the day before,” Bowles said on the “Today” show.
“We know there was a live round in a box of dummy rounds that shouldn’t have been there. 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.”
Gorence, meanwhile, told the “Today” show that the prop ammo had been kept in a truck “that was completely unattended at all times, giving someone access and opportunity.”
Bowles was asked if a crew member could have added the live round and replied, “I think you can’t rule anybody out at this point.”
Bowles told The New York Times that, around 11 a.m. on the day of the shooting, Gutierrez-Reed loaded three firearms from the “dummy” box — guns that were to be used later that afternoon during filming.
The lawyer said the guns were encased in socks to prevent passers-by from handling them, and that Gutierrez took a lunch break, leaving them unattended.
Gorence defended Gutierrez-Reed’s actions to The Times, saying, “Was there a duty to safeguard them 24/7? The answer is no, because there were no live rounds.”
Gutierrez-Reed and first assistant director David Halls are among the on-set personnel who are under scrutiny in the shooting, which occurred during an Oct. 21 rehearsal on the film’s Santa Fe, New Mexico, set.
Earlier reports had said that Halls had declared “cold gun” — meaning the weapon was not loaded — before handing it to Baldwin.
When Baldwin aimed the .45-caliber Colt revolver at the camera, an apparently live round struck Hutchins and wounded the film’s director, Joel Souza.
Hutchins, a 42-year-old mother of a 9-year-old boy, later died. Souza, 48, was hit in the shoulder.
New Mexico authorities said last week it was too early to say if criminal charges will be filed against anyone — but the sheriff said more than 500 rounds of ammunition, likely including some live rounds, were found on the set.
Sheriff Adan Mendoza said the ammunition — apparently a mix of blanks and dummy rounds, along with some suspected live ammunition — is among 600 pieces of evidence that have been gathered so far in the investigation.
The sheriff also confirmed that the lead projectile apparently fired by Baldwin was recovered Souza’s shoulder.
According to an affidavit filed last week in support of a search warrant in Santa Fe, investigators stated that Halls picked up one of three guns from a mobile cart that had been prepared by Gutierrez-Reed.
According to another affidavit filed last week, Halls acknowledged to investigators that he did not check all of the rounds in the weapon before handing it to Baldwin and declaring it a “cold gun,” according to media reports out of New Mexico.
He told investigators that Gutierrez-Reed showed him the weapon earlier and “he could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she (Gutierrez-Reed) spun the drum.”
Meanwhile, Gutierrez-Reed has also denied reports that crew members had fired live rounds from prop weapons during down time in the production, and insisted she did not know how live ammunition wound up on set.
In a joint statement Friday, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys also described overall “unsafe” conditions on the “Rust” set.
“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” they said. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings. This was not the fault of Hannah.”
Over the weekend, Baldwin also spoke publicly for the first time about the death of Hutchins.
Tracked down Saturday by paparazzi on the side of a road in Vermont alongside his wife Hilaria, Baldwin said he couldn’t comment on the investigation into the death.
“I’ve been ordered by the sheriff’s department in Santa Fe (not to comment on the case). … It’s an active investigation in terms of a woman died, she was my friend,” Baldwin said. ” … We were a very, very well-oiled crew shooting a film together, and then this horrible event happened.”
Baldwin also confirmed that he had met with Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, and the couple’s 9-year-old son, adding that the husband was “overwhelmed with grief.”
“There are incidental accidents on film sets from time to time, but nothing like this,” he continued “This is a one-in-a-trillion episode. It’s a one-in-a-trillion event. … We’re eagerly awaiting for the sheriff’s department to tell us what their investigation has yielded.”
Baldwin also said he doubted production would start up again on “Rust.”