Three crew members who witnessed the fatal 2021 shooting on the New Mexico set of “Rust” have sued Alec Baldwin and the producers in a complaint that purportedly details what happened immediately before and after the incident.
Ross Addiego, Doran Curtin, and Reese Price are all New Mexico residents hired to work on Baldwin’s western-style movie, which was also produced by a production company headed by Baldwin. Addiego and Price worked with camera equipment, and Curtin was a set costumer.
All three were present when cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed, and director Joel Souza was seriously injured by gunfire on Oct. 21, 2021. They say that they have suffered significant trauma and damages as a result.
Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death. Assistant Director David Halls has pleaded guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon.
The lawsuit, filed Friday, paints a picture of a production besieged with recklessness and the decision to prioritize money over safety. Key production staff failed to follow industry-standard safety rules, and producers opted to hire Gutierrez-Reed over a “highly trained and experienced firearms specialist” as a cost-cutting measure.
“Gutierrez Reed agreed to a dual role within the props department where she split her time between armorer and key props assistant, allowing Defendants to pay one person to perform the jobs of two,” the complaint says, adding that other would-be armorers had warned against this very setup.
According to the complaint, Baldwin didn’t participate in crucial safety training.
“Defendant Baldwin was scheduled for only 90 minutes of shooting and firearms safety training at Bonanza Creek Ranch on October 12, 2021,” the complaint says. “He chose to spend most of the allotted time speaking on his cell phone. This limited training time did not comport with industry protocols or safety standards.”
Gutierrez-Reed and other crew members had also complained to producers about “guns jamming,” misfirings, and a lack of time dedicated to firearm safety.
“Crew members also experienced multiple, unscripted firearms discharges,” the complaint says. “During the ninth day of filming, Sarah Zachry, the production’s property master, fired a blank round at her foot. That same day, Defendant Baldwin’s stunt double fired a blank round inside a cabin set.”
Defendants ignored these complaints and others, the complaint says, and several crew members resigned and walked off the set the day before the fatal shooting occurred.
‘Nothing in the script warned the crew that discharge of a firearm was imminent’
The complaint details the events that allegedly led up to the shooting, starting with a failure to check the revolver to be used in an upcoming scene.
“Industry safety standards required that Gutierrez Reed reexamine the revolver after removing it from storage and bringing it to set after lunch,” the complaint says. “She chose not to. No one examined the revolver after it was removed from the property truck’s safe. Gutierrez Reed handed the unchecked, loaded revolver to Halls, the first assistant director. She told him she had not checked the revolver after the lunch break. No one examined the revolver before Gutierrez Reed handed it to Halls.”
Halls also didn’t check the gun before handing it to Baldwin, according to the complaint.
“Defendant Baldwin then accepted the revolver from Halls rather than from the armorer as required by industry rules,” the complaint says. “He did not request that anyone verify or demonstrate the revolver’s safety before this exchange. And he did not ask to see whether ammunition was present inside the revolver’s chamber […] Instead, Defendant Baldwin accepted the revolver without any verification that it was a ‘cold gun.'”
As a small crew prepared for the scene with Baldwin inside the filming location, a small church in Santa Fe, there was no warning “that an operable firearm loaded with live ammunition was on the set,” the complaint says.
“Then, without Gutierrez Reed’s supervision or a call for a proper rehearsal, Defendant Baldwin began to practice his draw with the loaded revolver,” the complaint continues. “With his right hand, Defendant Baldwin repeatedly drew the revolver across his body from the left shoulder holster and pointed it in the direction of the crew members standing in front of him, including Plaintiffs.”
Hutchins was in front of Baldwin, less than three feet away, the complaint says. Addegio, Curtin, and Price were also nearby, no more than six feet away from the actor, according to the complaint. Price was walking toward Baldwin at the time. There was no indication that danger was imminent.
“The camera lineup did not call for Defendant Baldwin to cock the revolver or pull the trigger,” the complaint says. “Nothing in the script warned the crew that discharge of a firearm was imminent. No one present had been provided with eye and ear protection.”
Everything Baldwin allegedly did in the following moments was unplanned.
“[O]n his third draw, Defendant Baldwin cocked the hammer of the revolver with the trigger pulled and fired it towards the crew, striking Hutchins and injuring Plaintiffs,” the complaint says. “A live 45 caliber bullet fired from the revolver passed through Hutchins’ body and lodged into Souza’s shoulder.”
The plaintiffs say the sound was “deafening ” and caused them to suffer “blast injuries.”
“He felt the physical force of the gunfire in the small space.”
The complaint paints a picture of what happened next in grim detail:
Plaintiff Price saw the muzzle flash of the revolver in Defendant Baldwin’s hand. He felt the physical force of the gunfire in the small space. His ears began to ring. He felt as if everything was moving in slow motion. He saw Souza screaming and crawling away from Defendant Baldwin. Desperate and scared, crew members began to yank Plaintiff Price by the shirt and out of the church. Plaintiff Price realized the revolver had been fired towards him and his colleagues.
Plaintiff Addiego witnessed the same flash. He felt the same disorienting sound, force, and physical trauma from the gunshot. He heard Souza’s muffled screams and began to navigate the chaos. He became aware that he had just witnessed Defendant Baldwin fire the revolver towards him and the group in which he was standing. Hutchins and Souza fell to the ground. As he examined Souza for injuries, Plaintiff Addiego saw a hole in the front of Souza’s sweatshirt. Assisted by another crew member and the set medic, Plaintiff Addiego removed Souza’s shirt and rolled him over. Souza’s scapula was shattered, and a bullet was lodged just beneath his skin. Plaintiff Addiego applied pressure to Souza’s wound until emergency medical professionals arrived.
Plaintiff Curtin felt the same sound, force, and physical trauma from the gunshot. She watched Hutchins fall to the ground right in front ofher. With Hutchins at her feet, other crew members instructed Plaintiff Curtin to remove Hutchins’ headset. She bent down and removed the equipment from Hutchins’ head. She watched in shock as Hutchins grabbed at her abdomen. Plaintiff Curtin put her hands on Hutchins’ stomach, trying to find the source of Hutchins’ pain and figure out what was going on. As the chaos continued, Plaintiff Curtin was ushered out of the church. Once outside, she collapsed from the effects of the blast and the shock of the shooting.
“Hutchins was flown by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she died of her injuries,” the complaint says.
Despite witnessing one colleague suffer a fatal gunshot wound and another suffer serious injuries, according to the plaintiffs, the Rust production didn’t provide any support to help them process what happened.
“After the shooting, Defendants offered no diagnostic services or any meaningful emotional or mental health services to Plaintiffs,” the complaint says. “Despite this, Plaintiffs have independently sought support in dealing with their injuries which include, but are not limited to, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The complaint alleges negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiffs are seeking an undetermined amount for damages, including medical costs, pain and suffering, lost earnings, and punitive damages.
“The Defendants named in the lawsuit, Alec Baldwin, Rust Movie Productions, and El Dorado Pictures, cut corners and ignored safety rules, putting the quick and cheap production of Rust ahead of the safety of the cast and crew,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer Jacob G. Vigil said in a statement emailed to Law&Crime. “Alec Baldwin, as a producer and the film’s lead actor, embodied the production’s misplaced priorities and recklessness. He chose not to participate in critical firearms training and handled firearms unsupervised. On October 21, 2021, Baldwin again chose to ignore industry safety rules and disregard common-sense firearms protocols endangering the entire cast and crew, tragically killing one, and injuring many others, including our clients.”
“The consequences of the choices by Alec Baldwin and Rust’s productions companies have sent shock waves throughout the filmmaking community and brought national attention to dangerous practices occurring on film sets across the country,” Vigil continued. “This lawsuit was filed to end those practices.”
Read the complaint here.
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