Family of ‘Rust’ Cinematographer Shot by Alec Baldwin Sues for Wrongful Death

Anousha Sakoui and Meg James/Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — The family of slain “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against actor Alec Baldwin and other film producers, blaming the tragedy on cost-cutting measures and the reckless behavior of Baldwin and others.

Hutchins, 42, was fatally injured Oct. 21 when Baldwin pulled a gun from its holster and fired it at Hutchins and other crew members during a rehearsal on the set of the movie Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The bullet also hit director Joel Souza, who recovered.

The lawsuit alleged that Baldwin and other producers of the low-budget film sacrificed the safety of crew members by hiring inexperienced crew members and ignoring safety concerns expressed earlier by crew operators. shooting.

The lawsuit placed much of the blame on Baldwin, who the lawsuit says refused to practice the “cross-tracing” maneuver he was performing that day – just 4 feet from Hutchins and other crew members.

“There are a lot of people guilty, but Mr. Baldwin was the person holding the gun,” Los Angeles-based family attorney Brian Panish told a news conference.

The lawsuit is the latest in a wave of lawsuits against producers sparked by filming in New Mexico that has sent shockwaves through Hollywood and renewed calls for tougher security measures on film sets.

Panish and an Albuquerque-based attorney, Randi McGinn, filed a lawsuit in New Mexico’s 1st Judicial District Court on behalf of Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, 39, an attorney who works in the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins, and their 9-year-old son Andros.

Defendants include Rust Movie Productions LLC., Baldwin, 3rd Shift Media, Thomasville Pictures and other individual producers. The suit also names first assistant director David Halls, gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed, prop master Sarah Zachry, and PDQ Arm & Prop’s Seth Kenney. His company supplied weapons to the production, but Kenney said his company did not supply live ammunition.

“Defendant Baldwin and the other defendants in this case failed to perform industry standard safety checks and follow basic firearm safety rules while using real firearms to produce the movie ‘Rust’ with fatal consequences,” the lawsuit said Tuesday.

The litigation is the most high-profile complaint to date against the producers, who have also been sued by members of the crew, including script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and on-set nurse Cherlyn Schaefer, who struggled tending to Hutchins’ extensive wounds as she lay dying on the wood. planks on the floor of a church decor.

“Everyone’s hearts and thoughts remain with Halyna’s family as they continue to process this untold tragedy. We continue to cooperate with authorities to determine how live ammunition arrived on the ‘Rust’ set in the first place.” , said Aaron Dyer, a Los Angeles-based attorney for Baldwin and other “Rust” producers, in a statement.

“Any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false,” Dyer said. “He, Halyna and the rest of the crew relied on the statement of the two professionals in charge of checking the weapon that it was a ‘cold weapon’ – meaning there is no no chance of a shot, blank or otherwise. This protocol has worked on thousands of movies, with millions of shots, because there’s never been an incident on set where a live bullet hurt someone. Actors should be able to rely on gunsmiths and prop department professionals, as well as assistant directors, rather than deciding for themselves when a firearm is safe to use.

The lawsuit comes amid an ongoing criminal investigation into the incident by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office that has focused on the actions of Gutierrez Reed, Halls and Baldwin. Investigators have been trying to determine how a live bullet ended up on the set of “Rust.”

According to law enforcement documents, during a rehearsal, Halls handed Baldwin a replica of a vintage Colt .45 pistol, pronouncing it “cold”, to signal that there was no ammunition. inside. However, the gun contained dummy bullets and at least one lead bullet. The Hutchins’ lawsuit alleged that Halls was unqualified to handle the weapon.

Gutierrez Reed had loaded the guns that day, according to affidavits filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. But she told sheriff’s detectives she didn’t realize any real bullets were contained. in a new ammo box that arrived on set that day. The lawsuit said Gutierrez Reed and Kenney acted “negligently, intentionally (and) recklessly” in allowing live ammunition to be on set and failing to properly inspect weapons and ammunition.

Panish, of LA Panish company Shea Boyle Ravipudi, said authorities found other live ammunition cartridges on the set.

“Someone doesn’t get shot on a movie set. When was the last time this happened? Panish asks. “It only happens if people cut costs and engage in reckless behavior, leading to tragic and senseless death.”

The 24-year-old gunsmith told detectives she checked Baldwin’s gun that day before the unscheduled rehearsal, although she ‘didn’t really check it too much’ as ​​the gun had been locked up in a safe during a lunch break. Gutierrez Reed also told deputies that she was stretched too thin in her prop role.

“Defendant Baldwin and the other producers knew that defendant Gutierrez-Reed was unqualified, and they ignored defendant Gutierrez-Reed’s concerns that he would play the dual roles of gunsmith and assistant prop would result in breaches of basic firearm safety,” the lawsuit said.

During Tuesday’s press conference in downtown Los Angeles, Panish’s firm released a nearly 10-minute motion video re-enacting the shooting inside the ranch’s church. Panish said the account was based on information from witnesses and firearms experts.

The suit did not specify damages, but Panish said he expects them to be “substantial.”

Matt Hutchins “lost his longtime wife, who was the love of his life, and his son lost a mother,” Panish said. “Anyone who’s even been on the verge of going through this knows it lasts forever.”

Originally from Ukraine, Hutchins was killed as her career began to take off in a largely male-dominated field.

Hutchins graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015 and was selected as one of the Rising Stars of American Cinematography of 2019.

She was starting to make a bigger name for herself after a string of independent feature films, including “Archenemy” and “The Mad Hatter.”

Before embarking on feature films, she worked as an investigative journalist on British documentary productions.

His death highlighted the harsh working conditions, including long working hours, faced by many crews on film sets.

On the day of filming, crew members walked off set to protest working conditions and a lack of safety protocols, including accidental firearm discharges, the Los Angeles Times reported. Rather than investigating concerns expressed by film crews, according to the video, producers seemed more concerned with continuing the day’s filming schedule.

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