The armorer and props assistant for the Alec Baldwin film “Rust” on Wednesday evening filed a civil lawsuit against a New Mexico prop supplier who allegedly provided the ammunition that played a role in the film’s deadly Oct. 21, 2021 on-set shooting.
Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who says she was hired for $7,500 to fill the aforementioned dual roles during the ill-fated Santa Fe-area filming, is suing Seth Kenney and his business, PDQ Arm and Prop, LLC, for allegedly providing the production with reloaded live ammunition — in other words, real bullets — that Kenney allegedly obtained while working with Gutierrez Reed’s famous father a month earlier. The lawsuit says Kenney also appears to have had a combination to the safe on the “Rust” film set for some reason. It goes on to accuse Kenney of attempting to orchestrate his own investigation into the shooting and of attempting to point the finger at the plaintiff and her father in return for their cooperation in blaming someone else — Assistant Director David Halls — for the deadly chain of events.
The shooting resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the wounding of director Joel Souza.
The lawsuit says Kenney previously worked with longtime Hollywood gun expert Thell Reed, the plaintiff’s father, on another film in Texas in September 2021 — just a month before the New Mexico incident. It was Kenney, the lawsuit alleges, who “was instrumental in recommending” that Gutierrez Reed and props manager Sarah Zachry both be hired on the “Rust” set.
Kenney and his company, according to the lawsuit, “engaged in the business of assembling, labeling, marketing, promoting, packaging, advertising, and distributing props to individuals and entities in the State of New Mexico.” However, PDQ Arm and Prop’s business license has been “revoked,” and the company is currently “not in good standing with the New Mexico Secretary of State,” the lawsuit alleges. (A Law&Crime check of New Mexico business data indicates that the company’s registered agent resigned on Nov. 16, 2021, and that the Secretary of State subsequently issued a Certificate of Revocation on Dec. 17, 2021 — well after the October shooting.)
The lawsuit says the relationship between Kenney, Gutierrez Reed, and Zachry soured quickly after an Oct. 16, 2021 incident:
On October 16, five days prior to the tragic shooting on the Rust set, Sarah had an accidental/negligent discharge of a weapon on set, firing a blank round at her foot. Within 15-20 minutes of that accidental discharge, Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally/negligently discharged a round from his weapon inside a cabin on the set, nearby, as confirmed and reported by the LA Times on November 20.
Hannah confronted Sarah on her accidental/negligent discharge, wanted to know what had happened, and indicated that they would need to tell production about it and that it could impact Sarah’s ability to handle weapons on set.
That incident “led to a heated text exchange between Seth Kenney and Hannah over Sarah’s accidental/negligent discharge and the reporting of it,” the lawsuit alleges:
Seth took Sarah’s side and essentially told Hannah to back off and that “mistakes happen” and that Hannah needed to remember that Sarah was her boss and not to “push it.” Hannah interpreted this as that Seth, who was called the “Armorer/Mentor” in call sheets, wanted to sweep this security incident under the rug. The term “Armorer/Mentor” does not seem to be a position that is used or understood on film sets generally.
Screenshots of text messages are supplied in the court papers to chronicle the vitriol:
Around Oct. 17 or 18, the lawsuit says Kenney called a friend to say “he never wanted to work with Hannah again” and allegedly “falsely accused Hannah of using derogatory language about Sarah ‘three times’ on set.”
In the lawsuit, Gutierrez Reed said she “was responsible for maintaining and managing [the] operation of firearm related movie props.” Additionally, “[a]s key props assistant, she was also responsible for assisting with a multitude of props duties as requested” by Zachry and by the film’s production team. Zachry, the lawsuit says, “was responsible for obtaining and maintaining all movie props for Rust.” Zachry’s “future sister in law, Nicole Montoya,” was hired as a props assistant.
The lawsuit said the demands of the film kept Gutierrez Reed quite busy:
The Rust script was a very “gun heavy” western script, with guns needed on 10 of the 12 film days leading up to October 21, and gunfire on at least half of the shooting days, according to the call sheets. This gun heavy script required Hannah to perform a significant amount of work each day as both an armorer and key props assistant.
The document also contains significant criticism as to the process:
The Rust production was a “low budget” film. It had a rushed and chaotic atmosphere at times, culminating the day before the tragedy with the abrupt and unexpected resignations of members of the camera crew on October 20. All the while, the props and armorer departments were expected to teach each other and do more with less. The introduction of live rounds onto the set, which no one anticipated, combined with the rushed and chaotic atmosphere, created a perfect storm for a safety incident.
The lawsuit then provides a lengthy narrative as to what occurred on the morning of the deadly shooting. It alleges that Zachry and Montoya were “already in the prop safe retrieving the firearms” when Gutierrez Reed arrived for work at about 6:30 a.m. “This was unusual,” the lawsuit says, “as Hannah was the person who typically retrieved the firearms from the safe by herself.”
Mysteriously, according to the lawsuit, a new and “completely full” box labeled “dummy rounds .45 LC” had been “placed on top of Hannah’s equipment bag.”
“Hannah had not seen a full box of dummy rounds in weeks and nor was this full box on the equipment bag when Hannah had last been in the prop trailer,” the lawsuit says. “Upon information and belief, the dummy rounds and live rounds came from Defendants.”
Zachry acknowledged that the box “appeared on set that day,” the lawsuit then says, citing statements attributed to Zachry by the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 20.
The lawsuit then explains what allegedly happened next:
Hannah exclaimed words to the effect of “what is this?” We have been looking for a full box of dummy rounds for weeks! Where did this come from?
Sarah was the person who had been bringing all the dummy ammo boxes onto set from Defendants, but she did not respond as to where this full box had come from after Hannah made her comments. Props assistant Nicole simply giggled in response to Hannah’s questions.
No one in the prop truck acknowledged or claimed to be the source of the full box of .45 caliber Long Colt dummy ammunition that morning.
Hannah shook the box and heard a “jingling” sound, which is what a dummy round box should sound like.
It was a busy morning and Hannah was happy that they had a full box of dummy rounds to work with and because Sarah as prop manager had brought dummy boxes to the set in the past as part of her duties, Hannah didn’t think any more of it at the time.
The lawsuit then notes that a video display service known as Video Village was down on the day of the shooting, so it was impossible to remotely monitor the “impromptu” scene in the church involving Alec Baldwin — the scene which turned deadly. The failure of Video Village was the result of the film’s standard camera crew having quit the night before, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit again picks up its narrative:
At approximately 10:00 a.m., Hannah, Sarah and Nicole loaded Alec Baldwin’s gun, and two other guns for use in scenes that day, with dummy rounds from the full dummy round box found that morning in the prop truck.
For Alec Baldwin’s gun, Hannah loaded 4 dummy rounds with holes in them from her pants pocket, a 5th dummy round from the box with a hole in it and attempted to load a 6th dummy round without a hole in it from the box but it would not go into the chamber, and she thought the chamber might need to be cleaned.
Sarah and Nicole helped load the other weapons and the bandoliers. They were all placed on the prop cart.
Hannah handed the gun to Alec Baldwin just after 10:00 a.m. and he had continuous possession of the gun with the 5 dummy rounds loaded into it until the set broke for lunch around 12:30. During this time, Baldwin was involved in various scenes.
Hannah asked Baldwin approximately every 30 minutes when a scene “cut” if Baldwin wanted to give her the gun back and he said, “no.” Hannah also sent Nicole over to ask Baldwin if he wanted to hand the gun back to her for holding but Baldwin said no that he was ok to continue holding it.
When the set broke for lunch at 12:30, Baldwin gave his gun back to Hannah. Hannah, Sarah, and Nicole locked the guns back up in the safe in the prop truck, inside gun “socks”. Gun “socks” provide an extra layer of protection for rifles and guns when traveling or in storage.
After lunch, the following is alleged to have occurred:
When the three returned from lunch a little before 1:30 p.m., Sarah and Nicole pulled the guns out of the safe and they and Hannah carried the guns and placed them back on the cart.
Hannah had to step away for a brief period and asked Sarah and Nicole to watch the guns. When she came back she noticed that the two had wandered some feet away and the guns were unattended for perhaps 5 minutes.
Hannah remembered the chamber that she believed needed to be cleaned in Baldwin’s gun and she cleaned it and then Hannah pulled another round from the dummy box, shook it, and placed it in the chamber.
To the best of Hannah’s knowledge, the gun was now loaded with 6 dummy rounds.
Indeed, Defendants as suppliers of prop ammunition to the Rust set, sold, distributed, and advertised its props as dummy ammunition and not live rounds. Hannah relied upon and trusted that Defendants would only supply dummy prop ammunition, or blanks, and no live rounds were ever to be on set.
Assistant Director Halls told Hannah in her earpiece in a rushed fashion that Baldwin’s gun was needed inside the Church.
Gutierrez Reed alleges that she obliged, brought the gun to Halls inside the church, and “spun the cylinder for Halls and showed him the 6 loaded dummy rounds.”
“Baldwin was not inside the Church,” the lawsuit notes. “Halls then took custody of the weapon and was inside the Church sitting in a pew.”
Halls allegedly claimed that the gun “wasn’t going to be used at all since this wasn’t a scene or rehearsal.” Gutierrez Reed allegedly told him in return to let her know if plans changed. The plaintiff left the church because it wasn’t large enough to support a full entourage of staffers due to Covid restrictions.
Guiterrez Reed alleges that she neither saw nor had custody of the gun “for approximately 15 minutes.” During that time, she says no one told her that plans were changing, and she says she wasn’t present when Halls apparently yelled to the crew that the gun was cold. She wasn’t present when the shooting occurs, the lawsuit says. Had she been, things would have gone differently, the lawsuit claims:
Had Hannah been called back in, she would have re-inspected the weapon, and every round again, and instructed Baldwin on safe gun practice with the cross draw, as was her standard practice on set and under circumstances where: (1) Baldwin did not respond to Hannah’s request on October 15 to schedule cross draw training and (2) the gun had been out of her possession for 15 minutes.
Hannah would never have let Baldwin point the weapon at Halyna, as part of standard safe gun practices. Apparently, no one inside the Church stopped Baldwin from doing so, including AD Halls.
Here’s how Gutierrez Reed described learning what occurred:
As the shot went off, Sarah who was outside the Church and near Hannah at the ammo cart, exclaimed: “What was that?!” Hannah responded that she didn’t know. Sarah then asked, “Was that the gun?!” Hannah said it couldn’t be the gun and she believed it had to be special effects because Hannah knew in her mind that the gun was loaded with dummy rounds when she handed it to Halls.
Thereafter, Hannah heard shouting in her earpiece and complete commotion. Hannah went inside the Church whereupon she saw Halyna and Joel Souza laying on the ground, and they were bleeding.
In the commotion that followed, Gutierrez Reed demanded the weapon for an inspection; Halls brought it to her.
“Hannah told Sarah to inspect the ammo box immediately to determine if there were any live rounds in the box,” the lawsuit continues. “Sarah returned from the prop cart within minutes and said that there were other suspected live rounds in the ammo box. It is unclear how Sarah was able to make this determination so quickly, what her procedure was in checking the rounds, and how thoroughly she did so.”
“At some point thereafter, Sarah told Hannah that she had called Seth Kenney and that he said that the live rounds were not his,” the suit further states.
The lawsuit says sheriff’s deputies “found a suspected 7 live rounds distributed inside an ammo box, on the ammo cart and in the bandoliers,” the latter of which are belts for holding ammunition. “The live rounds had Starline Brass casings with ‘nickel’ primers.”
Strangely, according to the documents, Kenney called Troy Teske, a police officer in Bullhead City, Ariz., after the shooting — but before Hutchins died — to assert “that Hannah had messed up.” Teske is described as being one of the plaintiff’s father’s best friends.
“It was suspect to Troy that Seth almost immediately was implicating Hannah, right after the incident without any first-hand information about the incident,” the lawsuit concludes.
Kenney placed more than 20 calls to Teske over the next several weeks, the lawsuit alleges. Some of those calls inquired as to what the lawsuit refers to as “re-loaded rounds” — which were sometimes made by Thell Reed and apparently kept at Teske’s house.
“Upon information and belief, Seth was attempting to match one of Thell’s reloaded rounds to the live rounds retrieved on the Rust set,” the lawsuit alleges. “If there were a match, presumably, Seth sought to shift blame to Hannah and connect her to these rounds through Thell’s rounds kept at Troy’s house. Seth took it upon himself to essentially investigate this matter for the Sheriff’s Office and insert himself into this matter and attempt to implicate Hannah.”
The lawsuit notes, however, that “Seth possessed hundreds of Starline Brass rounds from Thell Reed in the ammo can that he took from Thell on the previous movie set, all of which are now unaccounted for.”
After Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers appeared on national television shows and blamed sabotage for the deadly shooting, the lawsuit says Kenney texted Gutierrez Reed in an attempt to blame Halls for what occurred. In the message, Kenney calls Halls “reckless” and unprofessional:
Kenney also allegedly texted Thell Reed to tell Gutierrez Reed to back down.
“There was nothing to be gained by Hannah and her Attorneys dragging me into this,” reads one text string from Kenney to Thell Reed quoted in the lawsuit. “If anything the DA may perceive this as an unapologetic scapegoat tactic and lower the boom even harder. You and I will be collateral damage in this tragedy and approach, it makes no sense.”
The lawsuit then says police seized an ammunition can from the defendant business that originally belonged to Thell Reed — but missing were some of the bullets Kenney allegedly took from Thell Reed on the previous film set in Texas the month prior to the fatal shooting in New Mexico.
The lawsuit’s core allegation then spill out as follows:
Defendant Seth Kenney has denied ever being on the set of Rust, but somehow had the code to the prop truck safe that Hannah had purchased for production. Hannah never gave him the code. Seth was on set, supposedly for the first time ever, when the warrant was served on the prop truck, 6 days after the shooting on October 27, 2021, to help the Sheriffs get into the safe. It is unknown who gave him the code to the production’s safe.
Contrary to the truth, upon information and belief, Seth told law enforcement that it was his prop safe. It was the production’s safe, and Hannah purchased it and has a copy of the receipts to prove this.
Defendant Seth Kenney had access to the Rust set, knowledge of the code to the prop safe, and with his company PDQ Arm & Prop was the primary supplier of guns and ammo to the Rust set. Upon information and belief, after the October 16 accidental discharge by Sarah Zachry, Defendant Seth Kenney said that he never wanted to work with Hannah again.
The live, reloaded Starline Brass rounds upon information and belief, originated from a known reloader, then went to Thell Reed, and into the Thell Reed ammo can to Defendant Seth Kenney. Seth Kenney had a long-standing relationship with the reloader. Seth Kenney apparently believed that the rounds found on set connected back to the rounds from the reloader, which is why he made the calls to Troy Teske right after the shooting incident, requesting Troy send him live round samples.
The lawsuit alleges four counts: (1) a violation of the New Mexico Unfair Trade Practices Act, (2) the creation of a dangerous condition/strict products liability, (3) strict products liability for alleged false and deceptive product labels and false material representations, and (4) breach of contract.
The lawsuit seeks a trial by jury and compensatory, punitive, and treble damages. It also seeks costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuit is case number D-202-CV-2022-00217 in New Mexico’s Second Judicial District, Bernalillo County. The full complaint is embedded below.
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