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‘Rust’ set shooting: Prosecutors formally charge Alec Baldwin

(NewsNation) — Actor and producer Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have been formally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust”, according to the probable cause statement released Tuesday.

The statement indicated that the shooting took place after crew and actors were preparing for a scene. It was not an established rehearsal and the crew had yet to start filming.

Baldwin was wearing a shoulder holster and practicing drawing the .45 caliber, single-action, six-shot revolver. Hutchings and Souza were watching on a monitor as Baldwin drew the gun, pointed it at Hutchins and fired.

The statement said that after reviewing the script and interviewing witnesses, the scene did not require the weapon to be fired. An expert armorer said a plastic or replica gun should have been used in a rehearsal, given the scene did not require firing blanks.

A bullet hit Hutchins passed through her body and then hit Souza. Hutchins was pronounced dead, while Souza was treated and released.

Prosecutors allege Baldwin did not attend required firearms training before the start of filming. Statements from OSHA showed Baldwin was given “minimal” training on firearms, even though the armorer requested more training for him.

In a statement, Reed said Baldwin had limited training, including on how to check his own firearm and determine if it was loaded, which she felt was important. A training session was scheduled for at least an hour, but Reed said the actual training only lasted 30 minutes and Baldwin was talking on his phone at the time.

During media interviews and law enforcement interviews, Baldwin’s statements regarding what happened were “inconsistent,” including his claims that the gun accidentally went off. Video evidence showed Baldwin with his finger on the trigger while manipulating the hammer and drawing and pointing the gun.

When an FBI lab examined the gun, it did not malfunction. The lab also examined ammunition seized from the set and found five live rounds and one spent casing from a live round. Those didn’t match rounds taken from the company that supplied weapons and ammunition for the movie.

Investigators stated that Baldwin failed to demand at least two safety checks between the armorer and himself. Standard procedure for a film set includes the armorer showing the actor the firearm, unloading and reloading it to prove there are no live rounds, something Baldwin was aware of through his experience as an actor.

Reed also left the scene while Baldwin had the gun, instead of staying on set as she was supposed to.

Investigators said Baldwin pointed the gun directly at Hutchins and Souza, despite being aware the first rule of gun safety is to never point a gun at someone you don’t intend to shoot. Baldwin was also aware one should always assume and act as if a gun is loaded.

The statement concluded Baldwin’s actions constituted a “failure to ensure minimum standards were met” and that they would be considered reckless based on industry standards.

Reed admitted she had no certifications or union membership for her role as an armorer and she had previously only served in the role for one film. As a producer, Baldwin allowed the hiring of someone inexperienced for the role and failed to ensure she was meeting minimum standards.

In addition, Baldwin hired Reed to also serve as a props master, instead of solely focusing on her role supervising weapons. Another crew member assigned to assist Reed also had little to no experience with weapons and firearms safety. Despite that, the crew member was allowed to handle firearms and ammunition without Reed’s supervision, against industry practice.

That crew member had a previous incident on set when a revolver intended for use on set, discharged a blank into the ground while walking, but no action was taken in response.

There was also a second negligent discharge on set involving a stunt double using a rifle that was left unattended in a holding tent, which Baldwin also failed to address.

Prosecutors found Baldwin also failed to address a lack of daily safety meetings that should have been handled by an assistant director, alleging that failing to hold regular safety meetings led to a “climate of recklessness.” There was no safety meeting on the day of the shooting.

Before the shooting, the gun should have been cleared and checked by the armorer, first in the presence of the first assistant director, David Halls, and the actor. Halls should then have followed the armorer and alerted the crew to the presence of a hot or cold weapon on set. Neither Halls or Baldwin fully checked the gun with Reed before rehearsing, according to the statement, and Halls also failed to announce that it would be fired during the scene.

Prosecutors said Reed loaded the gun with dummy rounds, but it was left unattended with Halls during lunch, another violation of standards. A cart holding holsters and ammunition was also left unattended during lunch. Reed didn’t perform a second safety check after lunch, before the gun was given to Baldwin for shooting.

The statement concluded Baldwin’s behavior constituted negligence and he acted with “willful disregard” to the safety of others, giving them probable cause to charge him with involuntary manslaughter.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be issued a summons to appear in court. Prosecutors will forgo a grand jury and rely on a judge to determine if there is sufficient evidence to move toward trial. It could take up to 60 days for decision.

Prosecutors also said they will release the terms of a signed plea agreement with assistant director David Halls, who oversaw safety on the set. Participants in the un-filmed rehearsal have given conflicting accounts of who handed the gun to Baldwin.

Halls has agreed to plead guilty in the negligent use of a deadly weapon, they said.

Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said in a statement Monday that prosecutors are “fully focused on securing justice for Halyna Hutchins” and “the evidence and the facts speak for themselves.”

Baldwin, also a co-producer on “Rust,” has described the killing as a tragic accident. The 64-year-old actor said he was told the gun was safe and has sought to clear his name by suing people involved in handling and supplying the loaded .45-caliber revolver.

In his lawsuit, Baldwin said that while working on camera angles with Hutchins, he pointed the gun in her direction and pulled back and released the hammer of the weapon, which discharged.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles, who represents Gutierrez-Reed, said the charges are the result of a “flawed investigation” and an “inaccurate understanding of the full facts.”

Defendants can participate remotely in many initial court proceedings or seek to have their first appearance waived.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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