Suing four members of the Rust crew on Friday, actor Alec Baldwin made his mission clear: He “seeks to clear his name,” his attorneys wrote.
Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western film in late October 2021. Several lawsuits have been filed in various court systems over the tragic incident.
The cross-complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges negligence against people previously sued by the production’s script supervisor Mamie Mitchell. Baldwin names armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, first assistant director David Halls, weapons and rounds supplier Seth Kenney along with his defunct company, PDQ Arm and Prop, and property master Sarah Zachry as defendants.
“These cross-defendants are professionals who owed a duty to those on set, including Baldwin, to keep the set safe,” the complaint says. “Everyone on set, including Baldwin, expected and trusted them to do so. Baldwin seeks to clear his name and hold cross-defendants accountable for their misconduct.”
Earlier this month, a Golden State judge ruled that Mitchell’s lawsuit – which names Baldwin as the lead defendant and claims he fired the weapon intentionally – can move forward on several, but not all, of the claims. Mitchell was standing behind Hutchins when she was shot and killed and has alleged physical and mental injuries from the incident.
At the beginning of the year, Baldwin and his production company, El Dorado Pictures, unsuccessfully petitioned the court to dismiss Mitchell’s lawsuit altogether and with prejudice.
The Friday court filing seeks to, in a sense, do the next best thing – by attempting to spread legal liability for the shooting to crew members who, Baldwin claims, are more “responsible” for the fatal incident.
“Smith, individually and through his production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, was primarily responsible for Rust’s day-to-day operations,” the lawsuit alleges. “Zachry and Gutierrez-Reed were responsible for sourcing and procuring the weapons and ammunition used on the Rust set.”
Jason Bowles, an attorney for Gutierrez-Reed, told Law&Crime: “Baldwin is solely responsible for the harm and tragedy.”
The cross-complaint takes stock of the day of the shooting.
“On October 21, Gutierrez-Reed relieved Baldwin of the gun shortly before lunch,” the lawsuit says. “Unbeknownst to Baldwin, a chain of mistakes and missteps by Cross-Defendants had already been set in motion that would lead to the tragic loss of Hutchins’s life that afternoon.”
Over several pages, the day is recounted in detail and from Baldwin’s point of view, including his oft-repeated claim that he “pulled back the hammer, as was required by the script, but not far enough to actually cock the gun,” before the bullet was fired “through [Hutchins’] body.”
The filing returns to the theme of responsibility, directly calling into question the basis of the original lawsuit and assigning blame:
Another individual suggested that a live round might have been in the gun, but the idea was quickly dismissed by others as farfetched, as two different crew members—Gutierrez-Reed and Halls—were responsible for checking the guns on set to confirm the absence of live ammunition.
At this time, Mitchell approached Baldwin and said, “You realize you’re not responsible for any of what happened in there, don’t you?” Yet Mitchell is now suing Baldwin in this action.
The lawsuit also points to an email Baldwin sent, in which he “affirmatively requested gun training by the crew member responsible for firearms on the Rust set long before filming began.”
In terms of damages, the filing seeks a share of any money that Mitchell may eventually obtain from Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, Kenney, and Zachry, as well as seeking indemnification from each of the four should Mitchell prevail in her lawsuit against him.
“This tragedy happened because live bullets were delivered to the set and loaded into the gun, Gutierrez-Reed failed to check the bullets or the gun carefully, Halls failed to check the gun carefully and yet announced the gun was safe before handing it to Baldwin, and Zachry failed to disclose that Gutierrez-Reed had been acting recklessly off set and was a safety risk to those around her,” the lawsuit claims.
Law&Crime also reached out to attorneys for Halls and Kenney but they did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It is presently unclear whether Zachry is represented by counsel.
[image via screengrab/ABC News]
Editor’s note: this story has been amended post-publication to include a response from an attorney for Gutierrez-Reed.
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