‘Rust’ gun supervisor has ‘no idea’ how live ammunition got on set, lawyers say

SANTA FE, N.M.  — 

The crew member who was in charge of gun safety and usage on the “Rust” set said through her attorneys Friday that the movie set had become unsafe before the fatal shooting and that she had been denied time to train actors, maintain weapons and prepare for gunfire scenes.

Hannah Gutierrez Reed had been hired for two different roles on the low-budget western, which made focusing on her job as armorer “extremely difficult,” according to a written statement from two New Mexico attorneys that was shared with The Times.

Gutierrez Reed had “no idea where the live rounds came from,” her attorneys said. They said that she and the set’s prop master had “gained control over the guns and she never witnessed anyone shoot live rounds with these guns … nor would she permit that.”

“There’s no way a single one of them was unaccounted for or being shot by crew members,” the statement said, adding that she locked up the set’s guns at night and at lunch.

Gutierrez Reed had “fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire, but ultimately was overruled by production and her department,” said her attorneys, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence.

“The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings,” Bowles and Gorence said. Those conditions, they said, were not “the fault of Hannah.”

The Times has previously reported that Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds the Saturday before the shooting after being told that the gun was “cold,” meaning the weapon did not have any ammunition, including blanks, two crew members who witnessed the episode told The Times.

A camera operator on set had complained, in a text message, about accidental gun discharges just days before the fatal shooting. Gutierrez Reed “to this day, has never had an accidental discharge,” her attorneys said. They said one discharge on the “Rust” set was connected to the prop master and the other to a stuntman whom Gutierrez Reed had informed that his gun was “hot with blanks.”

Gutierrez Reed also extended her condolences to the family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was killed by Alec Baldwin as the actor rehearsed a gunfire scene inside a church.

“Hannah is devastated and completely beside herself,” the statement said. Hutchins “was an inspirational woman in film who Hannah looked up to.”

Veteran prop master Neal W. Zoromski has previously said that the “Rust” producers had reached out to him on Sept. 20 asking if he wanted to join the crew to oversee all of the props and weapons.

Zoromski was interested and he asked for a staff of five, but line producers told him it was a low-budget film. Zoromski then said he would need a staff of at least two technicians: an assistant prop master as well as an armorer.

The producers told Zoromski that they were combining the job of prop assistant and armorer, and that gave Zoromski a bad feeling. He then turned the job down.

“You never have a prop assistant double as the armorer,” Zoromski told The Times last weekend. “Those are two really big jobs.”

Gutierrez Reed told investigators that during lunch, the firearms were secured in a safe with a combination on a white prop truck that only “a few people” have access to. But the ammunition was left on a cart during the meal and “not secured.”

Gutierrez Reed also told investigators that live ammo was never kept on set. Investigators said Wednesday that they recovered roughly 500 rounds of ammunition from the set — a mixture of “blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting were live rounds,” according to Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza.

Property master Sarah Zachry retrieved the firearms from the safe after lunch, Gutierrez Reed said. During filming, the armorer said, she gave the gun to Baldwin “a couple times” as well as to first assistant director Dave Halls.

The shooting has raised questions about the production’s decision to hire a relatively inexperienced armorer. Gutierrez Reed, 24, had served as lead armorer on only one film before getting the job on “Rust.”

The Arizona resident is the daughter of a former Marine who served as Brad Pitt’s gun coach on “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and served as a quick draw expert on “Django Unchained.” She has said that her favorite childhood memory with her dad was visiting the set of the 2007 film “3:10 to Yuma,” which was filmed in New Mexico.

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