Actor Alec Baldwin formally charged for fatal shooting on set

Baldwin and the weapons supervisor on set of film ‘Rust’ charged with involuntary manslaughter but maintain their innocence.

Actor Alec Baldwin leaves his home, with a vehicle seen in the background. He looks stressed.
Baldwin faces charges related to his work on the film Rust, where he was an actor and producer [David 'Dee' Delgado/Reuters]

Actor Alec Baldwin and a weapons specialist have been formally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on a New Mexico movie set, according to court documents filed by prosecutors in the United States on Tuesday.

Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies filed the charging documents naming Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who supervised weapons on the set of the Western film Rust.

Halyna Hutchins died shortly after being wounded during rehearsals at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021. Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza.

Prosecutors have said that Baldwin’s involvement as a producer and the person who fired the gun weighed in the decision to file charges.

The filing on Tuesday comes nearly two weeks after prosecutor Carmack-Altwies first announced that Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed would be prosecuted for what authorities have described as a pattern of criminal disregard for safety. In recent weeks, she outlined two sets of involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the shooting.

The manslaughter charge against Baldwin includes alternative standards and sanctions. One would apply a charge of manslaughter for reckless disregard of safety “without due caution and circumspection”.

A probable cause statement outlining the evidence against Baldwin alleges many instances of “extremely reckless acts” or reckless failures to take precautions in the days and minutes leading up to the deadly shooting.

Investigators say Baldwin drew a revolver from a holster, pointed it at Hutchins and fired the weapon when a plastic or replica gun should have been used by industry standards.

The statement also says photos and videos of the rehearsal, including moments before the deadly shooting, showed Baldwin with his finger inside the trigger guard and on the trigger while “manipulating” the pistol’s hammer, and that an FBI analysis shows the pistol could not be fired without pulling the trigger.

Investigators say Baldwin failed to appear for mandatory firearms training prior to filming and that he did not fully complete on-set training while distracted by phone calls to family. They also cite several breaches of required safety checks and protocols as the gun was loaded and provided to Baldwin.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed maintain their innocence and have said they will fight the charges.

Baldwin’s lawyer Luke Nikas declined to comment on Tuesday and referred to his previous statement on the case, in which he called the charges a “terrible miscarriage of justice” that he and his client would fight and win.

“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set,” the statement said. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked.”

Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer said they would release a statement later.

Hutchins’s death already has led to new safety precautions in the film industry.

Carmack-Altwies told The Associated Press in a January 19 interview that the set was “really being run pretty fast and loose”. She said Baldwin should have known there had been previous misfires on the set and multiple people had brought up safety concerns.

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 towards trial. It could take up to 60 days for a decision.

Involuntary manslaughter can involve a killing that happens while a defendant is doing something lawful but dangerous and is acting negligently or without caution.

Prosecutors say a proposed plea agreement signed by the film’s Assistant Director David Halls, who oversaw safety on set, has not yet been approved by a judge and cannot be published.

Prosecutors said previously that Halls has agreed to plead guilty to the negligent use of a deadly weapon. Prosecutors say Halls may have handled the gun improperly before it was given to Baldwin.

Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, said in a statement on 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-calibre 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.

Defence lawyer 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 decision to charge Baldwin marks a stunning turn of events for an A-list actor whose 40-year career included the early blockbuster The Hunt for Red October and a starring role in the sitcom 30 Rock, as well as iconic appearances in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and a film adaptation of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

In recent years, Baldwin was known for his impression of former US President Donald Trump on the comedy TV show Saturday Night Live.

Source: The Associated Press