By Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, Michael P. Ehline Esq. Find answers to all your questions.
Some have called it murder, others a tragic mistake. What we do know is the outcome will haunt us all forever. A combined mother and spouse have been lost to an easily avoidable incident at the set of the film, “Rust,” at Bonanza Creek Ranch. Reportedly, Matthew Hutchins and his 9-year-old son, Andros, surviving relatives of decedent cinematographer Halyna Hutchins have hired a top-notch Los Angeles California personal injury attorney.
Mr. Hutchins selected a billion-dollar trial attorney, Brian Panish, Shea, Boyle, Ravipudi, for his wrongful death action against multiple wrongdoers working on the movie set of Rust. Also, Gary A. Dordick, pictured here _________ , is representing the Rust Movie Head of Lighting, Serge Svetnoy, as the same bullet almost assassinated him.
Our viewers and critics will recall that we floated the idea that disgruntled workers who dislike Alec Baldwin may have switched out dummy rounds for live rounds as a form of revenge killing for his alleged low-budget proclivities.
We suggested Alec Baldwin may have been an unwitting emissary of death in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding of set director Joel Souza. We also said it was “far fetched” since Baldwin should have been smart enough to check his damn gun! The armorer is reaching by defending, saying she is being framed.
Baldwin should be checking his prop gun, or even a cap gun, before leveling its barrel at a person; for that matter, the Rust Armorer’s lawyer can’t escape the fact she was the person responsible for what types of rounds were placed in the old school revolver.
– Michael Ehline, Esq.
Low and behold, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer for “Rust,” has been accused of negligence. As we predicted here, her lawyer now counters that sabotage by disgruntled set workers may be the real reason, as a form of “sabotage.”
On the 21st of October, actor Alec Baldwin apparently discharged a live round from a western-style, single-action prop gun he fired, killing Halyna Hutchins, which also injured the film’s director, Joel Souza.
Gutierrez-Reed remains the focus of law enforcement’s attention, as she was the armorer who oversaw the weapons used in filming the western on the day of the Rust Movie fatal shooting incident in New Mexico.
And I am also saying that spinning the wheel is any substitute for the last person in charge looking at the casing, primer, and blanks (if any), before declaring “cold gun” during rehearsals, surrounded by potential human targets.
During a segment on NBC’s “Today,” attorney for armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, Jason Bowles, said that the round that killed Hutchins wasn’t allowed on the set, to begin with, a cardinal sin against movie set gun safety protocols.
“How did a live round get on set, and who put that on the set?” Bowles questioned.
“‘There was a box of dummy rounds labeled ‘dummy,'” said attorney Bowles arguing against the lawsuit brought by the surviving family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and other counterclaims brought against his client.
“We don’t know whether the live round came from that box. We’re assuming somebody put the live round in that box.”
As will be discussed, gun experts and lawyers alike are wrangling to point the finger to suggest a motive, based upon the latest news published by “Today.”
“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,” Bowles said. “And we know that people had walked off the set the day before.”
When asked if he thought the shooter was a member of the crew, Bowles responded, “I think 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,” said wrongful death defense lawyer Bowles.
Although Bowles has made many deflective arguments, he hasn’t explained how or why his client allowed assistant director David Halls to allegedly hand a loaded, operable firearm to Alec Baldwin, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and severely wounding director, Joel Souza.
“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 an opportunity to tamper with this scene,” Bowles stated.
Another attorney for defendant Gutierrez-Reed, Lawrence Gorence, stated that all of the ammunition was in a vehicle. “that was completely unattended at all times, giving someone access and opportunity.”
According to the New York Times, the gun was loaded with six rounds by Gutierrez-Reed, who removed them from a box labeled “dummies.” Gorence alleges the gun remained unguarded after Gutierrez-Reed loaded it. Three guns were prepared similarly that same day.
“Was there a duty to safeguard them 24/7?” asked Gorence. “The answer is no because there were no live rounds.”
During the crew’s lunch break, according to an affidavit from the Santa Fe County sheriff’s department, the weapons were in a safe in the prop truck. Sarah Zachry of the prop department gave Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer claimed.
According to Bowles, Gutierrez-Reed spun the cylinder of the gun and showed assistant director Dave Halls six rounds within. She did not go inside a church while the scene was being rehearsed.
“Hannah thinks the gun is secured,” said Bowles. “So she goes and does her prop duties.”
Past “Rust” camera chief Lane Luper scoffs at the idea foul play was afoot, as floated by attorneys for former armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, with respect to the shooting. Bowles and Robert Gorence don’t seem to be willing to concede anything with both civil and criminal ramifications with potential consequences from bankruptcy to capital punishment. This case is no joke!
Allegations of poor working conditions leading to sabotage may be their only decent defense in light of the duties alleged to have been violated by armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed.
With social media blowing up with voices like Shannon Lee, the daughter of the late Bruce Lee and brother to the late Brandon Lee, Hannah Gutierrez Reed may need to rely on conspiracy theories to get out of a manslaughter charge. Brandon Lee died in an eerily similar shooting incident on the set of hit motion picture “The Crow.” The last team her legal team needs is anything remotely pointing the finger at the movie set’s armorer.
According to the Santa Fe-area district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, investigators had found no indication of sabotage. His statement was confirmed by the agency’s spokesperson, Sascha Guinn Anderson, on Wednesday. Set culture will likely play a role in everything here, as the door has been opened to argue Baldwin’s stinginess created an environment wherein you either quit, or fell on your sword. Or, for those revenge minded set workers, taking a life would be the ultimate of paybacks.
Steve Wolf, a weapons safety expert and armorer in the film and television industry, rejected Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers’ claim that “sabotage” was to blame for how live ammunition got into the weapon that killed Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” last month.
The sabotage claim, put forward by Gutierrez-Reed’s legal team on “Today,” has not been backed up with evidence and is merely speculation, according to the attorneys or authorities. And Steve Wolf, a 30-year veteran of the film armoring business, described the allegation as “speculation” in an interview on TheWrap
“I think it’s a far more sinister explanation than the more likely explanation that people were using that gun for target practice, they didn’t properly unload it, they left it back on the cart, and then someone picked it up, several people handled it with none of them checking it. That’s just a more likely explanation,” said Wolf during “TheWrap-Up Podcast.”
According to Wolf, the question of how a live round got on set isn’t difficult to figure out; the more pressing issue is why — why did someone think it was acceptable to do so, and why wasn’t the weapon adequately checked?
“The armorer did not check it, the first A.D. did not check it, and Alec Baldwin did not check it. So there were at least three opportunities where someone could’ve checked the gun.”
According to The Wrap, the weapon that killed Halyna Hutchins had previously been used for target practice or “plinking.” Wolf said there had been occasions when others on set have requested him to use live weapons and fire them in a safe location away from the set.
However, those weapons would first need to be checked “If you were shooting a Western and the actors were unfamiliar with the firearms if they came to me and said, ‘Hey, during lunch can you spare 30 minutes and take me out and give me a shooting lesson?’ and there was a safe place to go off set, I wouldn’t think that was unreasonable,” Wolf said. “But then I would take the guns back, and I would check them before I returned them as set guns.”
According to Gutierrez-Reed, she spun the cylinder and showed the assistant director Dave Halls the rounds, then handed him the gun. I am also a firearms expert, and I agree with Mr. Wolf.
Wolf claims that when he inspects rounds, he removes each round from the gun, and each is held in his hand as he shakes it to ensure it’s a dummy round. He says dummy rounds make a rattling sound of B.B.s to indicate there is no gun powder inside. He can repeat the procedure in front of them if they ask to double-check him.
However, Wolf is incorrect if he asserts that all dummy rounds sound like B.B.s inside the cartridge. We use dummy rounds to prevent firing pin and internal parts damage to our Glock 19s when we do dry fire exercises in CQB training. They do not have any loose BBS or anything else. They are a different color, and that’s about it.
If what Wolf is saying is always true about movie set dummy rounds, that’s another story entirely. Wolf went on to assert: “No harm in that, right? It takes 30 seconds, then the actor has the confidence that they’ve seen that the gun is checked,” according to Wolf. “Once I hand this gun to you, you’re responsible for what happens with it.
So you probably would like to know what the condition is. If you lack the training, I’m going to show you right now what we do with it . . . If you’re satisfied like I am, I’m going to reload this gun right in front of you and hand it back to you.”
Wolf goes on to criticize the person with combined responsibility as an assistant prop master and lead prop master, stating:
“People either don’t know the rules, or they don’t follow the rules”. . . “It’s time you don’t do it that you’ll kill someone. So you do it every time. My motto on safety is ‘the right way every time.’ It’s when you depart from those rules even just once, even for a moment, that you risk taking a life.”
If I were holding a press conference about movie sets and how to maintain weapons, I’d start by saying a weapons expert and not a stunt man is the right person for the job. I am not saying a stuntman handed Baldwin the gun. I am saying the proper time to check a weapon is not hours before handing it over.
But clearly, a true expert would never hand a gun loaded with live ammo (aka live bullets) on a New Mexico movie set involving shootouts in a western town! With or without tailgate safety meetings, an accidental weapon discharge on a production set should never happen, period.
Allegedly, on the subject of films sets, Gutierrez-Reed was the subject of film crew complaints over set safety during the filming of to be released, Nicolas Cage film, “The Old Way.” Whether complains about prop guns on film sets will surface about safety on other movie sets remains to be seen.
For his part, alleged anti police advocate, actor Alec Baldwin posted on social media he thinks a police officer should be posted on each movie set using real or fake guns. Baldwin is getting push back for supporters of the Second Amendment and self defense rights. One Tweeter tweeted:
“Actor Alec Baldwin, who has previously and strongly supported the defund police movement, is now calling for police officers to be in charge of the armory on movie sets.” – SharpDesertThorn @DesertSharp
@JaxRiverRauch tore into Baldwin, stating:
“So the guy who wants to de fund the police wants to police to stop patrolling … doesn’t want to take responsibility…” in a Forbes thread on Twitter, among thousands of others pointing out Baldwin’s “hypocrisy.”
Dordick was the first to pull the trigger in getting this case moving. Our followers will recall that Hutchins passed away on 10/21/2021.
Dordick’s investigative team was able to identify multiple potentially liable parties, getting his court papers filed on 11/10/2021 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Case Number 21STCV41392. (See Image) Dordick has already identified the following potentially at-fault parties.
According to the sheriff’s office, multiple defendants may or may not have some comparative negligence for their role in the New Mexico cold gun killing case involving real ammunition, namely, a live bullet. Once a full and complete investigation of the crew members wraps up, and a statement is obtained from Albuquerque, New Mexico authorities, we will update you about the various factors involved in this fatal incident.
Once all parties have retained counsel, file their lawsuits, cross complaints, and answers over the gun Baldwin shared with other crew members during the film Rust, I will update you. Updates will include any information about the plaintiff’s theories as to how a real bullet was switched out for prop ammunition on the Rust Set and why.
Whether sabotage committed after complaints during rehearsal became the trigger for sabotage, only after a statement obtained by our firm will we have a better idea as to liability and how much money is on the table in response to the challenges. Of the various parties?
We know already from the timeline that a ‘Rust’ camera assistant who quit the set a day before the final act stated on Good Morning America only two safety meetings occurred, and gun safety was largely ignored, apparently by the person responsible for providing arms on set. If someone tampered with the gun or safety slipped the minds of those responsible remains a hotly contested issue.
If we speak to any witnesses, a news outlet, or experts about being overworked and motives for revenge, we’ll share additional insights about this strange case. We can update you on how we think husband Matthew Hutchins and other plaintiffs will pursue a wrongful death damages award between now and then.
To date, it appears Matthew Hutchins has not filed his and his son’s wrongful death lawsuit. I guess that ultimately, anti Second Amendment rights activist actor Alec Baldwin is vicariously responsible and at fault for everything resulting from this likely future wrongful death litigation.
Filmmaker Baldwin should have had the presence in the wake of so many prior set shootings like that of Brandon Lee, to never point the barrel of a gun at anyone until FIRST CHECKING IT HIMSELF!! Marines don’t rely upon armorers.
We are taught to assume everyone is compromised when it comes to firearms and always clear and check the firearm personally and its ammunition, as opposed to blanks causing an accidental sound effects explosion from two accidental weapons discharges.
That’s the old way, the proven way, as taught under the military and Civilian Marksmanship Program Guidelines and well before. At Ehline Law, we are convinced, if you wish to avoid an accident like on Baldwin’s New Mexico set, factors like training and common sense will avoid unexpected gunfire problems when you shoulder or shoot a cold or hot prop gun near the general direction or vicinity of others.
It can never be an accidental weapon discharge if real bullets are never inside the prop gun. In conclusion, I wanted to thank the few brave souls on the movie set who attempted to keep Halyna conscious while she was bleeding out trying to keep conscious. If my wife had been in a similar situation, these people would be the heroes in my book.
I hope the family scores what little victory they can from the jaws of defeat. In the meantime, as we all grieve, the firm will keep you posted about the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ family’s wrongful death action and its effects on the film industry as a whole.
At least one California lawmaker is drafting legislation, California State Sen. Dave Cortese of San Jose. Cortese is chairman of the Senate Labor Committee. He’s announced a push legislation to ban not only live ammunition, but operable firearms of any type from California film sets.
California Republicans argue all this will do is force Hollywood Studios, already exempt from the Roberti-Roos assault weapons ban, to relocate to more free states like Texas or Nevada.
Like the Los Angeles Times and others, we are dedicated to truth in the accuracy of reporting. If we missed anything or something appears incorrect, please get in touch with us for a retraction or update to better understand what happened on the film set on that fateful day.
As always, our international alliance of attorneys and experts is available to discuss any recent lawsuit filed on behalf of or against any crew member or worker that fateful day before the police arrived. Please use our contact form for a free legal consultation today. Or call us at (213) 596-9642.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer on the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his JD from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. He compassionately helps clients recover after serious injuries.