Film Set Medic Cherlyn Schaefer Sues over 'Rust' Shooting
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Civil Lawsuit Involving Fatal Shooting on Alec Baldwin Film Set Awkwardly Claims the Armorer Died. She Didn’t.

 
A sign points to the direction of the Bonanza Creek Ranch where a fatal shooting occurred on a movie set on October 22, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured on set while filming the movie "Rust" with actor and producer Alec Baldwin. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

A sign points to the direction of the Bonanza Creek Ranch where a fatal shooting occurred on a movie set on October 21, 2021 near Santa Fe, New Mexico.  (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images.)

Yet another civil lawsuit filed Monday concerning the fatal shooting which occurred on the Alec Baldwin film “Rust” in New Mexico last year accidentally named the wrong victim.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died Oct. 21, 2021, and director Joel Souza was wounded when a bullet discharged from a gun being handled by Baldwin. Baldwin has claimed he didn’t pull the trigger.

The named plaintiff, Cherlyn Schaefer, identifies herself as the “key medic” on set. A broad collection of defendants are named:  Rust Movie Productions, LLC (the movie company); armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed; prop master Sarah Zachry; assistant director David Halls; PDQ Arm & Prop, LLC (the supplier of the film’s ammunition); Seth Kenney (PDQ’s owner); Bonanza Creek Film Locations, LLC; Bonanza Creek Ranch, LLC (the location where the shooting occurred); and Bonanza Creek representative Shannon Hughes.

Schaefer notably did not sue Baldwin directly; the lawsuit refers to him as a “non-party.”

The lawsuit awkwardly claims in one section that the film’s armorer was the victim who died. She wasn’t.

“Non-party Alec Baldwin discharged the gun killing Hannah Gutierrez Reed,” reads line 66 of the case, which was filed in Santa Fe County’s First Judicial District Court. That assertion is a mistake; other sections of the lawsuit correctly note that Hutchins is the one who died.

In substance, the lawsuit directly accuses Halls of failing to check the gun a second time before handing it to Baldwin. It also accuses Gutierrez Reed of failing to distinguish between dummy rounds and live ammunition.

“Dummy rounds look like live rounds, except for a small hole in the side of the casing that identifies them as inoperable,” the lawsuit alleges.  “In a dummy round, one or more BBs are placed inside in place of the powder.”

“When a dummy round is shaken, the BB(s) make nose,” the allegations continue.  “A live round does not make noise when shaken.”

The lawsuit rehashes allegations that Kenney received “reloaded rounds” from Thell Reed, Hannah Gutierrez Reed’s father, from another film set and somehow — for some reason — provided them to “Rust.”

From the lawsuit, at length:

During the production of the other movie there was a training provided to some of the movie’s actors wherein the actors practiced shooting guns with live rounds.

Thell Reed brought Seth Kenney an “ammo can” full of live rounds for the training.

The live rounds Thell Reed brought Seth Kenney were not factory made rounds.

The live rounds Thell Reed brought Seth Kenney were reloaded rounds.

The reloaded live rounds of ammunition were made using Starline Brass casings.

The ammo can contained 200-300 live rounds.

After the production on the other movie ended, Seth Kenney took the ammo can containing the remaining live rounds to New Mexico.

The lawsuit says Kenney “retained possession” of the live rounds despite being asked by Thell Reed to return it. Instead, the lawsuit alleges, Kenney is believed to have provided the live rounds to “Rust.”

Again, from the lawsuit:

The ammunition Seth Kenney supplied to the set of Rust was branded with the logo “Starline Brass.”

The casing to the bullet that struck Halyna Hutchins was branded with the “Starline Brass” logo.

The manufacturer Starline Brass does not manufacture live rounds.

The lawsuit says Gutierrez Reed should have recognized the difference between the allegedly reloaded rounds and the dummy rounds on set — despite their similar appearance:

Hannah Gutierrez Reed knew or should have known how to distinguish a live round from a dummy round.

Hannah Gutierrez Reed knew or should have known she was loading a live round of ammunition into the revolver.

The lawsuit makes similar claims against Zachry and Halls. After the shooting, the document claims Zachry “shook the box of ammunition and discovered what she believed to be live rounds because they did not make the nose a dummy round makes when shaken.”

The case goes on to allege that Gutierrez Reed also supplied some of the ammunition on the set which bore the “Starline Brass logo.”  It further says Zachry and Reed “mixed rounds of ammunition from different boxes together and transported the mixed ammunition loose in fanny packs.”

The ranch and its representative were sued on the grounds that ranch rules which forebade “personal firearms” and “explosives” were not followed. The lawsuit referred to the upshot — the fatal shooting — as “obvious non-compliance” with those rules.

Schaefer, the plaintiff, said her primary role was to ensure the “cast and crew stayed hydrated, were protected by sunscreen and bug spray, and providing any minor first aide needed for injuries due to the set locale and animals present.”

That turned into a “frantic” scene inside the movie set’s church.

Schaefer’s lawsuit says she ordered a call to emergency responders — including a helicopter.

“Cherlyn Schaefer fought desperately to save Halyna Hutchins’ life, putting pressure on her wounds, giving her oxygen, checking her vitals,” the lawsuit notes. “Despite Cherlyn Schaefer’s extensive efforts to stabilize and save the life of Halyna Hutchins, Halyna Hutchins later died of her wounds.”

The lawsuit alleges 10 counts in total. It alleges negligence/negligence per se and circumstantial evidence of negligence (res ipsa loquitur) against all defendants. It also alleges various other causes of action against various individual defendants:  intentional inflection of emotional distress; a “prima facie tort;” misrepresentation; premises liability; intentional spoliation of evidence; negligent entrustment of a chattel; negligent hiring, training and supervision; and products liability.

Schaefer says she “suffered tremendous shock, trauma, and severe emotional distress as a result” of the incident; she also said those effects have “prevented her from returning to her chosen profession.”

The case is one of at least three others filed in connection with the shooting; at least one additional lawsuit by Hutchins’ estate appears to be highly imminent.

Read the full lawsuit below:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now a Senior Editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.