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Attorneys for Hannah Gutierrez-Reid, the armorer on Rust, suggest "sabotage" as the reason behind a live bullet being in the gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, who represent the 24-year-old in the investigation, made this claim on the Today show and Good Morning America on Wednesday. They say Gutierrez-Reid loaded the gun, fired by star Alec Baldwin, from a box of dummy rounds, so someone must have mixed live rounds with the dummies with ill intent.
“I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, want to prove a point, want to say that they’re disgruntled, they’re unhappy," Bowles said on Today. "And we know that people had walked off the set the day before."
He was referring to the six members of the camera crew who walked out the morning of the shooting on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set.
“We know there was a live round in a box of dummy rounds that shouldn’t have been there," Bowles said. "At least one live round. We have people who had left the set who had walked out because they were disgruntled. We have a time frame between 11 [a.m.] and 1 [p.m.], approximately, that day, in which the firearms at times were unattended, so there was opportunity to tamper with this scene. And, yes, we're looking at that possibility."
Asked specifically if he thought a crew member could be a suspect, Bowles replied, “You can’t rule anybody out at this point.”
On GMA, Bowles added that he doesn't think whoever tampered with the ammo expected there to be a fatal shooting "but they wanted to do something to cause a safety incident on the set. That's what we believe happened."
Gorence said on Today that the gun was "left unattended from 11 to 1 o'clock."
Investigators have said the ammunition was left out on a tray completely unattended. The gun was in a safe in a prop truck, but Gorence noted the truck was "completely unattended at all times giving someone access and opportunity."
On GMA, Bowles noted three people had access to the safe: Gutierrez-Reid, prop master Sarah Zachry and a third unidentified props assistant. He also said the ammunition was left out because "it was dummy rounds and blanks."
The attorneys again emphasized that Gutierrez-Reid had two jobs on the indie film — one as a part-time armorer and another as a key props assistant. They said she prepped the gun with ammo from a box labeled "dummy," which they said she didn't buy herself but was purchased by production and provided to her. They claim the gun was loaded with what she thought were six dummy bullets — that have many physical similarities to real bullets — and she showed "each and every round" to assistant director David Halls.
On GMA, Bowles walked through the chain of command with the gun. He explained when Gutierrez-Reid loaded it and when she passed it to Halls.
"She did spin [the cylinder]. She did check it" before giving it to Halls, he said. "We then know that he had the firearm in the church and that firearm then ended up with Mr. Baldwin. It was not given to Mr. Baldwin by Hannah. It went to him through Mr. Halls."
Bowles said that when the shooting took place, it was not during a rehearsal, as has been stated, or a filming. It was during tech prep, or positioning cameras, so Gutierrez-Reid wasn't required to be there — and she wasn't. She was doing her second job.
Gorence said on Today, "Hannah was not in the church and that's really significant because if there was something to involve one the firearms, she had to be there. She wasn't in the church because it wasn't set up to have that dynamic of: We're going to use one of these firearms."
On GMA, Bowles said gun safety was of the utmost importance to Gutierrez-Reid, who they said worked one-on-one with Baldwin on gun handling prior to the shooting. He also said she didn't see anyone using the guns for target practice, as has been rumored.
Asked if Gutierrez-Reid was too inexperienced for the job, having only one feature film on her resumé, Bowles said no, pointing to her dad, veteran armorer and gun coach Thell Reed, training her from the age of 10.
"She's actually very experienced," Bowles said. "She knows firearms. She knows safety... This is not about her being inexperienced. It's about a production set where they didn't give the resources. She wasn't a full-time armorer. They didn't pay her for that... It's the way they wanted to allocate resources and the emphasis on profitability, frankly, over safety."
The attorneys also noted they are cooperating with authorities and Gutierrez-Reid will be interviewed again soon. They also look forward to the findings from the FBI doing DNA and fingerprint testing on the guns and 500 rounds of ammunition taken from the set.