“Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed sentenced to 18 months in prison over deadly 2021 shooting

“Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed sentenced to 18 months in prison over deadly 2021 shooting


The “Rust” armorer who last month was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the deadly shooting of Halyna Hutchins, the film’s cinematographer, was sentenced in a New Mexico state court today to 18 months’ imprisonment. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed received the maximum penalty for her part in the 2021 tragedy that several experts have since characterized as a preventable incident, where actor Alec Baldwin discharged live rounds from a prop gun on the movie set during a rehearsal.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer handed down the sentence to conclude an emotionally charged hearing Monday.

“I find what you did constitutes a serious violent offense,” Sommer told Gutierrez-Reed. Although the prosecution pushed for this outcome — the maximum sentence — Gutierrez-Reed and her defense team had asked the judge to consider probation as an alternative. The defendant, who is now 27, raised that request herself in a statement read in court before the sentence came down. In the statement, she called Hutchins an inspiration and said she was saddened by the media coverage of her case and the negative light in which it painted her to the public.

“Your honor, when I took on ‘Rust,’ I was young and naive. But I took my job as seriously as I knew how to,” said Gutierrez-Reed. “I beg you, please, don’t give me more time. The jury has found me in part at fault for this horrible tragedy, but that doesn’t make me a monster. That makes me human.” 

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was the armorer for the movie “Rust,” sits with her attorney Jason Bowles and paralegal Carmella Sisneros during her sentencing hearing at First District Court, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 15, 2024.

Eddie Moore/Pool via Reuters

The prosecution had cited Gutierrez-Reed’s lack of contrition during the trial as one reason to impose the maximum sentence. But her attorney, Jason Bowles, said in his final remarks at the sentencing that his client had in fact cried, broken down, experienced “mental breakdowns” and “said ‘if only’ many, many, many times,” with that side of her remaining largely unfamiliar to people following the case.

Gutierrez-Reed’s sentencing hearing began at 10:30 a.m. in Santa Fe. She sat in the courtroom and at times seemed to have tears in her eyes as Joel Souza, the writer and director on “Rust” who was injured in the shooting, Craig Mizrahi, Hutchins’ former agent, and several of her friends gave statements on the impact of her death. 

“What I want is simply not possible. What I want is, everyone is OK and lives aren’t destroyed,” said Souza, who spoke mainly about the loss suffered by Hutchins’ husband, their son, and the rest of her family.

“One moment the world made sense, and the next moment, it didn’t. It still doesn’t, and I don’t know if it ever will again,” he told the courtroom through a virtual call. “Those of us who were lucky enough to have shared in her [Hutchins’] fleeting time on this planet are better for it.”

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armorer at the movie “Rust,” listens to closing arguments in her trial at district court, Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Luis Sánchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool, File

Mizrahi and Emilia Mendieta, who identified herself in court as Hutchins’ close friend and former classmate, each shared personal anecdotes about the cinematographer, who has been described frequently since her death as a talented “rising star” approaching a major break in her career when she died.

“The circumstances surrounding the disaster force us to ask so many questions, with one in particular above all: How could this have happened?” Mizrahi said. He suggested broad failures by Gutierrez-Reed as well as “Rust” leadership caused the shooting. 

“When the producers hired someone with virtually no experience to not only be the armorer but also the assistant prop master, two very challenging positions, they made a crucial decision to put the safety of the cast and crew on the back burner,” he said. “As for Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, it’s my opinion that she should not have held either position, much less both, but that once accepted, the responsibility should have been taken more seriously. Sadly it wasn’t, and we all know the result.”

Mendieta similarly called Hutchins’ death “the result of a massive system failure.” She said holding Gutierrez-Reed accountable would serve as an industry-wide reminder “that actions taken to compromise the safety of the workplace, even if unintentional, have consequences.”

“Rust” weapons supervisor convicted in connection with fatal shooting

“It all boils down to a very simple question: Why was there a live bullet on set?” Mendieta said. “A live bullet should never had made its way onto the set, let alone the gun, full stop. And that is where Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, as the armorer on ‘Rust,’ failed Halyna.”

Attorney Gloria Allred read a statement at the hearing written by Hutchins’ mother, Olga, who gave spoken remarks herself in a video recorded in Ukraine.

“It’s the hardest thing to lose a child,” Hutchins’ mother said. “And time does not heal. It is two and a half years past, and it gets worse and worse.”

Allred later read another statement in court written by Hutchins’ father, who did not appear virtually or in person and said that his daughter’s death had worsened his physical health.

Last month, a jury convicted Gutierrez-Reed on the involuntary manslaughter charge, brought against her by the state of New Mexico in the wake of the “Rust” shooting. The former weapons supervisor on the Western film could also receive a fine for as much as $5,000, along with prison time, at the sentencing. She had originally been charged with a second felony count by the state for evidence tampering but was acquitted at the trial. 

“Rust” film set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed listens while expert witness Bryan Carpenter testifies during her involuntary manslaughter trial in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Feb. 29, 2024.

Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican/Pool via Reuters

Authorities took Gutierrez-Reed into custody once the verdicts were read. Her defense blamed the film’s management for the shooting, arguing that serious safety issues existed on the “Rust” set that were outside of her purview. Her defense attorneys zeroed in on the fact that the movie’s primary ammunition supplier had apparently not been investigated.

Gutierrez-Reed, the daughter of an established Hollywood armorer, had previously pleaded not guilty to both charges. After the jury delivered its verdicts on March 6, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney told CBS News that he planned to appeal “a number of issues that occurred in the trial.” But subsequent case filings show that the defense’s attempts to secure a new trial with her release, and, then, her conditional release, in the aftermath of the conviction were quickly denied by the state. 

Prosecutors had throughout the trial painted Gutierrez-Reed as careless and irresponsible, with the aim of convincing jurors that her negligence and “willful disregard” for the safety of others ultimately endangered her “Rust” colleagues and caused Hutchins’ death. The state sought the maximum prison sentence for Gutierrez-Reed’s manslaughter conviction as prosecutors said she appeared not to display any signs of remorse over the fatal incident in court. 

Additional documents filed in the case reference at least one more felony charge related to weapons handling against Gutierrez-Reed in New Mexico, which is still pending, for allegedly “intentionally hiding a firearm from security at a local bar to get the firearm into the bar” after her arrival in the state for filming. Prosecutors said she went on to record a selfie video in the bar restroom boasting about her successful ruse and flashing “a nickel-plated semi-automatic pistol” toward the camera. The state has also accused her of possessing cocaine while working as the firearms expert on “Rust,” which is considered a felony, too, in New Mexico.

In this image taken video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, Alec Baldwin gestures while talking with investigators following the fatal shooting on the set of “Rust” in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File

The allegation involving illegal substance use was presented as evidence during Gutierrez-Reed’s trial earlier this year. The trial itself ran slightly over two weeks and mainly centered around the origins of six live bullets that were found on the set of “Rust” as investigators began their probe into the shooting on Oct. 21, 2021. That day, Baldwin was rehearsing a scene for “Rust,” to be filmed at some unspecified future time, with Hutchins and Souza.

Their rehearsal happened on set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular filming location for Western movies on the outskirts of Santa Fe, and primarily focused on Baldwin drawing a .45-caliber revolver from a holster, while in character, and pointing the gun in the direction of Hutchins and Souza as they watched the scene unfold from behind a monitor. On one draw, the weapon fired and discharged live bullets, one of which passed through Hutchins before striking Souza. Hutchins was pronounced dead at an area hospital less than two hours later. Souza was injured but survived.

The revolver should never have contained live ammunition, according to industry-wide regulations and union guidelines governing the use of firearms on film sets, and the Santa Fe district attorney’s office had said in their initial probable cause statement that evidence indicated the scene Baldwin was rehearsing should not have even required the use of blanks. Inert dummy rounds would have sufficed instead, the statement alleged, and cited expert weapons consultants who noted that a plastic or replica gun should have been used during the rehearsal. 

It was Gutierrez-Reed’s responsibility to manage the weapons being used on the “Rust” set, including the gun that discharged and fatally hit Hutchins, the district attorney’s office said. But there are conflicting accounts as to how exactly live ammunition could have ended up in the revolver. The probable cause statement at first alleged that Gutierrez-Reed had loaded the .45 prior to taking a lunch break on Oct. 21, stored it, and retrieved it after lunch before handing it off, without performing the necessary safety checks, to the first assistant director, David Halls. 

This aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Oct. 23, 2021.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Halls already served six months of unsupervised parole for negligent use of a firearm, after pleading no contest and admitting that he improperly handled the weapon that fired on the film set. He gave emotional testimony in court during Gutierrez-Reed’s trial, saying that she had twice handed over the revolver to Baldwin during the Oct. 21 rehearsal — first, without any ammunition, and a second time, with five dummy rounds and one live bullet. 

Gutierrez-Reed said in a statement released through her attorneys in November 2021 that she did complete a proper safety check on the .45 revolver prior to handing it over and did not know how live ammunition wound up inside the gun.

“No one could have anticipated or thought that someone would introduce live rounds into this set,” the statement read. Gutierrez-Reed also said that she had instructed actors involved in “Rust” not to point guns at other people on set.

Baldwin has insisted that he pulled back the hammer of the revolver during that Oct. 21 rehearsal, but did not pull the trigger. Since the shooting, the actor has settled a lawsuit with Hutchins’ family, filed one against several members of the “Rust” crew, including Gutierrez-Reed, for negligence, and pleaded not guilty to a charge against him for involuntary manslaughter. That case has not yet gone to trial.


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