A veteran Hollywood armorer said he’s “not at all surprised” that actor Alec Baldwin will be criminally charged in connection to the “Rust” movie set shooting.
Baldwin and the set’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed in October 2021 on the New Mexico set of the western film, a prosecutor announced.
Steve Wolf, a special effects coordinator and firearms instructor, told Law&Crime’s Sidebar podcast that he was contacted by the appointed special prosecutor in this case, Andrea Reeb, who specifically asked him whether he thought Baldwin should face criminal charges.
“I unequivocally said criminal charges are warranted,” Wolf recalled from their conversation. “A death occurred needlessly as a result of ignoring known safety protocols. That’s why Halyna is dead and that everyone who was in the chain of command, whether they belonged there or not, had criminal liability.”
“I’m not at all surprised by these charges,” he continued. “This was, in my opinion, a case of gross negligence. Any use of firearms in any circumstance carries risks.”
Wolf explained that it appears safety protocols were not in place.
“Given that you’re using a firearm and you’re displaying it around people, there’s a very, very high burden of safety placed on everyone on the set,” he said. “So there should be no surprise that this accident happened when established gun-safety protocols were ignored.”
Wolf broke it down from his perspective: “They had an armorer. Where was she? Did Mr. Baldwin know that he had an armorer and that she wasn’t there? Then why did he take the gun from the first [assistant director]? He may as well have been taking it from the craft services caterer.”
The film’s assistant director David Halls signed a plea agreement for a different charge: negligent use of a deadly weapon. The deal calls for Hall to serve a suspended sentence and six months of probation.
Baldwin has maintained that he did not pull the trigger of the Colt 45 and doesn’t know how a live round got into the gun. The FBI, however, concluded that it was not possible for the gun to have been fired without pulling the trigger.
“Could it happen? You know, yes; potentially we could land on the sun at some point, when that technology exists,” Wolf proposed. “But right now, based on the FBI examination of the firearm, there was nothing wrong with that firearm.”
Wolf went on to allege that when Baldwin said he did not press the trigger, “what he means is he did not intentionally press the trigger.”
If your finger is resting on the trigger of a Colt 45 gun and the hammer is pulled back and released, the gun will still fire, Wolf demonstrated.
“So I don’t think that the timing of the charges, the presence or lack of text messages, where the live ammo came from — I don’t think any of these things are really relevant to the case,” Wolf said. “What’s relevant is that he pointed a gun at someone and that person died. It’s a very low standard in New Mexico for establishing this manslaughter charge.”
It comes down to what Wolf called the first rule of gun safety: “All guns are always loaded.”
“Unless you yourself have personally verified that the gun is not loaded and then it may be handled as such,” he explained.
“And I am quite sure that if the scene was a suicide scene or contemplated suicide scene in the scene called for him to point the gun in his head, that gun would have been checked,” Wolf continued. “He would have taken different measures than he did when he was pointing the gun at someone else.”
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]