Alec Baldwin to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in ‘Rust’ shooting


Prosecutors said Thursday they would charge Alec Baldwin and two crew members in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a film set in New Mexico, a stunning development that could lead to prison time for the internationally famous, Emmy-winning actor.

Baldwin, who was handling a prop gun when it discharged and struck Hutchins in October 2021, is expected to be charged this month with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 18 months in jail. The sentence could be enhanced to a mandatory five years if a jury determines there was more than simple negligence involved in the death, according to a news release.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, an armorer who was tasked with checking weapons for safety on the set of “Rust,” faces the same charges and penalties as Baldwin. A third worker on the low-budget Western, first assistant director David Halls, signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, prosecutors announced.

“If any one of these three people [ …] had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today,” Andrea Reeb, a special prosecutor assigned to the Santa Fe-area case, said in a statement. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set.”

Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, said in a statement Thursday that the decision to pursue charges “distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death,” calling it “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Nikas said. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”

Attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed — Jason Bowles and Todd J. Bullion — said their client “is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident.” They pushed back on the validity of the charges, describing them as “the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts.”

The terms of Halls’s plea agreement include a suspended sentence and six months of probation. His attorney, Lisa Torraco, said in a statement that “this is the best outcome for Mr. Halls and the case.”

The months-long investigation of the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting captivated and disturbed the public as authorities explored how a loaded firearm might have wound up on a film set at Santa Fe’s Bonanza Creek Ranch. Affidavits alleged that Gutierrez-Reed believed the .45 Long Colt revolver was loaded with dummy rounds when she placed it in a cart for the crew. Halls retrieved the firearm and called out “cold gun” to indicate it did not contain any live rounds, then handed it to Baldwin for a scene he was rehearsing in a church building.

Gutierrez-Reed said she was not allowed to enter the building because of coronavirus protocols and heard the firearm discharge from outside.

Baldwin was sitting on a wooden pew inside the building, holding the firearm when it discharged and hit Hutchins. The 42-year-old cinematographer was taken by helicopter to an Albuquerque hospital and pronounced dead. The film’s director, Joel Souza, was injured but released from a hospital soon afterward.

An intense debate about the wisdom of using firearms on sets gripped Hollywood in the immediate aftermath of the shooting but quieted as months passed. Hours after news of the charges broke Thursday, The Washington Post was not aware of any public statements on the matter from prominent industry figures.

In an interview with detectives shortly after the fatal shooting, actor Alec Baldwin detailed what happened on the “Rust” set on Oct. 21, 2021. (Video: Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office)

The most famous member of an acting family, Baldwin is known as much for his star turns as his outspoken liberal politics. He has made appearances in more than 100 projects since the 1980s, including his iconic speech in 1992’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” and a starring role in the hit sitcom “30 Rock.” His impersonations of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” famously irked the then-president.

Baldwin was starring in and also producing “Rust,” which was put on hiatus immediately after Hutchins’s death.

The actor, however, didn’t disappear from the public eye. Baldwin told reporters a week later that Hutchins was his “friend,” and said her husband was “overwhelmed with grief.” In December 2021, he sat down for a televised interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos and said he did not pull the trigger on the firearm: “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them,” he said, adding: “Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.” He remained active on social media and returned to work on a different film a few months later.

Baldwin also participated in a wave of civil litigation and finger pointing. In November, the actor sued Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, Seth Kenney, who assisted the armorer, and Sarah Zachry, the props master. Halls filed a countersuit against Baldwin. Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer, has filed a lawsuit against the ammunition supplier who worked with the “Rust” production.

Hutchins’s family sued Baldwin and several crew members, producers and production companies, but agreed to a settlement with the parties in October. A statement announcing the settlement said “Rust” would resume production in January, though its fate is now unclear following Thursday’s news.

Attorney Brian Panish, who represents the Hutchins family, thanked prosecutors in a statement shortly after the pending charges were announced.

“It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law,” Panish said. “We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.”


An earlier version of this article misspelled Joel Souza’s name.

This story has been updated with new information.

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