An attorney for the armorer on the Rust set, where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed by a live round fired from a gun held by actor Alec Baldwin, has made the extraordinary claim that a disgruntled crew member purposely placed that live round in amongst the props as an act of sabotage.
Without citing any evidence, attorney Jason Bowles said in a Today show interview Wednesday that investigators should consider this possibility as they assess the October 21 shooting. Bowles acknowledged that his client Hannah Gutierrez-Reed loaded the firearm in question, but suggested that another person may have put the deadly object into the box of inert “dummy” rounds or tampered with the gun after she left it unattended on a tray just outside the church where the fatal incident took place.
“There was a box of dummy rounds, and the box is labeled ‘dummy,’” Bowles said. “She loaded rounds from that box into the handgun only later to find out—she had no idea, she inspected the rounds—that there was a live round,” he said.
While that might absolve his client of some responsibility, the theory would seemingly elevate the situation from one of negligence to potential manslaughter or murder. The Santa Fe sheriff and district attorney have both said their investigation will seek to determine how a real bullet came to be present on the set of the Western drama.
When interviewer Savannah Guthrie asked Bowles to clarify, the attorney said: “We’re assuming somebody put the live round in that box, which, if you think about that, the person who put the live round in the box of dummy rounds had to have the purpose of sabotaging the set. There’s no other reason you would do that, that you would mix that live round in with the dummy rounds.”
So what could be the motive? Bowles cited reports that crew members were unhappy with the working conditions on the film. “I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, would want to prove a point, would want to say that they’re disgruntled, they’re unhappy. And we know that people had already walked off the set the day before,” Bowles said. “The reason they were unhappy is they were working 12 to 14 hour days. They were not given hotel rooms in and around the area, so they had to drive back and forth an hour to Albuquerque. And they’re unhappy.”
Is that reason enough for an act of sabotage that could—and did—prove fatal? And how would someone who “walked off the set” be able to return undetected and hide the deadly round among the props? Those questions were not addressed.
When Guthrie again asked if Bowles was implicating unspecified crew workers, he replied: “I think, Savannah, you can’t rule anybody out at this point. We know a couple of facts. We know there was a live round in a box of dummy rounds that shouldn’t have been there. At least one live round. We have people who had left the set, who had walked off because they were disgruntled. We have a time frame between 11 and 1, approximately that day, in which the firearms at times were unattended, so there was opportunity to tamper with this scene. And yes, we’re looking at that possibility.”
Vanity Fair reached out to the producers of the film for comment, and will update with any response.
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