Alec Baldwin Claims He’s Been ‘Exonerated’ In ‘Rust’ Set Shootings

The actor had “no authority over the matters that were the subject of the Bureau’s findings of violations,” his attorney said after New Mexico regulators issued their report.

Alec Baldwin posted a statement from his attorney to his Instagram account today stating that a report from regulators in New Mexico exonerates the actor in the death and injury of two of the filmmakers who were shot last year during a rehearsal on the set of the film Rust.

Halyna Hutchins, the now-scrapped western’s director of photography, was shot to death and director Joel Souza was badly injured on Oct. 21 after a gun being handled by Baldwin went off during rehearsals and fired bullets toward the two filmmakers. Baldwin, who was also an executive producer on Rust, has said that he did not know that the gun contained live rounds and that he did not pull the gun’s trigger that day. 

“We are grateful to the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau for investigating this matter,” Luke Nikas wrote in a post that appeared today on Baldwin’s Instagram page. “We appreciate that the report exonerates Mr. Baldwin by making clear that he believed the gun held only dummy rounds and that his authority on the production was limited to approving script changes and creative casting.”

Nikas explained further that Baldwin had “no authority over the matters that were the subject of the Bureau’s findings of violations” and that he and the actor-producer are pleased that those found liable in the report will be held to account.

The regulators’ report confirms that a large-caliber revolver was handed to Baldwin by Rust assistant director David Halls, who had not consulted with on-set weapons specialists during or after the time that the gun was loaded. An attorney for Halls said in November that it was not his job to confirm whether the gun handed to Baldwin was loaded—despite the fact that in a search warrant affidavit Halls told investigators he should have checked all the rounds loaded in the weapon and “couldn’t recall if he spun the drum.” Halls was previously the subject of safety complaints on film and TV productions.

In a summary of their investigation, New Mexico’s OHSB stated that the management of the film’s production LLC was well aware that typical on-set firearm safety procedures were going unfollowed and that they had “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety by failing to review work practices and take corrective action” amid the troubled shoot.

“There were serious management failures and more than sufficient evidence to suggest that if standard industry practices were followed, the fatal shooting of Halyna Hutching and the serious injury to Joel Souza would not have occurred,” Environmental Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”

On Wednesday, New Mexico’s OHSB issued the maximum legal fines against the LLC, Rust Movie Productions, to the tune of $139,793. Several other lawsuits related to Hutchins’ death have already been filed. 

The film’s 21-day production at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Bonanza City, New Mexico was troubled from the outset, with a potential strike brewing preceding the shoot by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees over working conditions and low pay. Two misfires had also occurred on the set ahead of the fatal shooting of Hutchins. Gun safety complaints were also made by crew members, the bureau documented, and weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions about additional safety training.

Rust’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the daughter of exhibitionist shooter and long-time industry armorer Thell Reed, was limited to eight paid days as armorer to oversee weapons and training as well as work with the props department. According to the OHSB report, Gutierrez Reed had warned a manager that her time as armorer on the shoot was running out. She is also now suing the supplier of the ammunition on a claim that the company sent a box containing live rounds that had been mismarked.

Criminal charges in the incident are still possible, Kenney told the Associated Press this week. Baldwin previously said via his lawyers that his contract excuses him from any liability.

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