As New Mexico police continue their investigation into the October 21 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by Alec Baldwin on the set of Rust, the first of what is expected to be many lawsuits has been filed.
Seeking a wide range of unspecified damages, Rust gaffer Serge Svetnoy has filed a complaint of general negligence against the production, the financiers, star Alec Baldwin, armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, first Assistant Director David Halls, property master Sarah Zachry, armorer mentor Seth Kenny and many more.
“This incident was caused by the negligent acts and omission of Defendants, and each of them, as well as their agents, principals, and employers,” the complaint states. “Simply put, there was no reason for a live bullet to be placed in that .45 Colt revolver to be present anywhere on the Rust set, and the presence of a bullet in a revolver posed a lethal threat to everyone in its vicinity,” it continues in blunt terms (read it here).
Handed what he was told was a “cold gun” by First AD Halls during a “quick draw” rehearsal at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe last month, Baldwin let off what police have called “live rounds” – killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. As he has stated before, Svetnoy says in today’s filing that he was “narrowly missed” being hit too. He also says that he is now suffering from “severe emotional distress.”
The complaint goes on to say:
Defendants, and each of them, among other acts of negligence, failed to implement and maintain industry standards for custody and control over firearms used on the Rust Set, allowed real bullets to be present on the Rust set, failed to properly inspect the subject firearm for safety before passing it along the chain of custody to an actor, allowed a firearm to be loaded with or otherwise contain a live bullet, failed to observe basic gun safety practices on the Rust set, allowed a revolver loaded with live ammunition to be pointed at living persons on the Rust set, failed to hire a competent and experienced armorer for Rust, failed to hire an adequate support crew for the production’s armorer, and failed to implement appropriate safety standards and measures on the Rust movie production.
Defendants, and each of them, by their negligent conduct describer below, failed to act with reasonable care, violated relevant and prevailing industry standards, and negligently exercised their assigned and assumed duties in the filming of this motion picture. Those duties encompassed responsibilities and required maintaining an industry-appropriate standard of care to prevent just this type of occurrence. These failures caused and contributed to the discharge of a live bullet on the Rust set and the resulting damages to Plaintiff and others.
The 25-page jury trial seeking document placed in the docket in LA Superior Court today damningly adds:
As to the chain of custody of the Colt revolver that day, Plaintiff is informed he believes, and on such information and belief alleges that prior to the aforementioned scene, Defendant Zachry retrieved the Colt Revolver from an unknown location. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on such information and belief alleges that Defendant Zachry failed to thoroughly inspect the Colt Revolver for safety before handing it to Rust’s armorer, Defendant Gutierrez Reed. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on such information and belief alleges that Defendant Gutierrez Reed loaded the Colt Revolver for the forthcoming scene. As she did so, Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on such information and belief alleges that Defendant Gutierrez Reed either failed to thoroughly inspect the gun, causing her not to realize that a live round of ammunition was present in the Colt Revolver’s cylinder, or loaded the Colt Revolver with at least one round of live ammunition. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on such information and belief alleges that Defendant Gutierrez Reed either released or allowed the Colt Revolver to be released to Defendant Halls with at least one round of live ammunition in its cylinder. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on such information and belief alleges that defendant Halls, upon taking custody of the Colt revolver, failed to thoroughly and properly inspect it before shouting “cold gun” (an industry term indicating that the firearm was not loaded with live rounds) and handing it to defendant Baldwin. Defendant Gutierrez Reed then left the church set. Defendant Baldwin, upon receiving the Colt revolver from Defendant Halls, failed to thoroughly inspect it with Defendant Halls to ensure that it was indeed “cold” before rehearsing his scene with it.
The production has not responded to request for comment from Deadline on the suit. If and when they do, we will update.
As a trio of search warrants executed by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s office have found a cache of weapons and, according to Sheriff Adan Mendoza, “500 rounds of ammunition … a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting are live rounds,” lawyers for Gutierrez Reed last week postulated a “sabotage” theory to explain the horror that occurred.
Disputed Wednesday on Good Morning America by First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who would be in charge of any criminal case, the theory suggests that “disgruntled” former camera crew members may have had something to do with that live round appearing where it distinctly shouldn’t have been.
Hours before the killing of Hutchins, several members of that team resigned from the $7 million Western citing safety and financial reasons.
First AD Halls admitted to police not long after the tragedy that he did not properly check the 1880s-era gun before declaring it a “cold gun” and handing it over to star/producer Baldwin for the rehearsal that went so wrong. Like armorer Gutierrez Reed, Halls retained a New Mexico criminal defense attorney in late October.
Adding to that, Halls was fired from a previous film because of gun safety lapses and was also not rehired over personal misconduct complaints on a 2019 Blumhouse TV project.
Both Halls and Gutierrez Reed have released statements lamenting the death of Hutchins and, to varying degrees, the obvious lack of safety on the Rust set — where there were at least two or three previous weapons discharges, it has been revealed. In a series of statements, roadside interviews with the media and social media re-posts, Baldwin has presented a more contradictory position as he grieved Hutchins’ death, praised the film as being “well-oiled” and on November 2 told his Instagram followers that claims the set of Rust was “unsafe, chaotic conditions are bullsh*t”
Nearly a week after promising they would be conducting an internal review, the producers of the now-shuttered Rust brought in law firm Jenner & Block on October 26 “to conduct an investigation of the events,” and join interviews that crew members and others have with OSHB in that state agency’s investigation of the shooting.
On set when the tragedy occurred, Svetnoy was one of the few Rust crew members to speak out publicly about what went sideways on set as many quickly became silenced due to the ongoing probe by police and chill sent out by the producers.
In a lengthy Facebook post on October 24, Svetnoy called out “the person who was supposed to check the weapon on the site did not do this; the person who had to announce that the loaded gun was on the site did not do this; the person who should have checked this weapon before bringing it to the set did not do it.”
“To save a dime sometimes,” Svetnoy continued, “you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job, and you risk the lives of the other people who are close and your lives as well. I understand that you always fight for the budget, but you cannot allow this to happen. … It is true that the professionals can cost a little more and sometimes can be a little bit more demanding, but it is worth it. No saved penny is worth the LIFE of the person!”
“Yes, I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Halyna during this fatal shot that took her life and injured the director Joel Souza,” Svetnoy writes. “I was holding her in my arms while she was dying. Her blood was on my hands.”
Svetnoy did not specifically name Rust armorer Gutierrez Reed in his Facebook rant, but he left little doubt who he saw at the core of the incident.
“I’m sure that we had the professionals in every department, but one – the department that was responsible for the weapons. There is no way a twenty-four-year-old woman can be a professional with armory; there is no way that her more-or-less the same-aged friend from school, neighborhood, Instagram, or God knows where else, can be a professional in this field.
“Professionals are the people who have spent years on sets, people who know this job from A to Z; These are the people who have the safety on set at the level of reflexes; they do not need to be told to put the sandbag on a tripod, fix the ladder on the stage, or fence off the explosion site. They have it in their blood.”
Last month Svetnoy also made sure to name the producers: “To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job, and you risk the lives of the other people who are close and your lives as well.
“I understand that you always fight for the budget, but you cannot allow this to happen. There should always be at least one professional in each department who knows the job. It is an absolute must to avoid such a tragedy, like the tragedy with Halyna.”
Rust Movie Accident
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