Convicted ‘Rust’ assistant director testifies about tense final moments before fatal set shooting

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The “Rust” assistant director testified about the final moments before the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Dave Halls, who was convicted of negligent use of a gun in the on-set shooting, recalled the series of events that led to Hutchins’ death Oct. 21, 2021, while testifying at armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed’s involuntary manslaughter trial.

Halls did two firearm checks with Gutierrez Reed shortly before the gun went off in the small church at Bonanza Creek Ranch. The assistant director claimed he did not instruct Gutierrez Reed to load the gun with dummy rounds that day, but she did. 

When he completed the second safety check of the gun with the 24-year-old armorer, he recalled only seeing three or four dummy rounds in the cylinder. However, there were six rounds in the gun at that time.

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Dave Halls mimics a gun with his hands while testifying in Hannah Gutierrez Reed’s involuntary manslaughter trial. (Courtesy: New Mexico Courts)

“I don’t recall [Gutierrez Reed] fully rotating the cylinder,” he testified.

The assistant director admitted he considered the safety check complete despite Gutierrez Reed not showing him all the rounds that had been loaded into the gun.

According to Halls, Gutierrez Reed handed the gun to Baldwin both times before the shooting, disputing claims made by Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed that the assistant director had called out “cold gun” before passing the gun to the actor.

ALEC BALDWIN’S ‘RUST’ ASSISTANT DIRECTOR SENTENCED IN FATAL SHOOTING OF HALYNA HUTCHINS

Halls admitted to his own negligence in regard to the fatal set shooting by pleading no contest to negligent use of a firearm. He was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation in March 2023.

“I was negligent in using the gun properly,” he said when asked why he chose to plead no contest.

Dave Halls wipes his eyes while testifying

Dave Halls wipes away tears during his testimony. (New Mexico Courts)

Halls became emotional while talking about the moments in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and the special prosecutor suggested taking a break while he wiped his eyes with a tissue. The assistant director recalled being about three feet away from Hutchins and was one of the first people to reach the cinematographer.

“Are you all right?” he remembered asking her as he described the gunshot wounds. “She responded, ‘I can’t feel my legs.'”

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At that point, Halls attempted to “triage” the situation after leaving the church and making sure 911 had been called. The assistant director grabbed the gun and instructed Gutierrez Reed to empty the loaded firearm.

“I took it to her and I said, ‘I need you to unload that gun. I need to know what’s in it,'” Halls told the jury.

Hannah Gutierrez Reed takes a photo of herself with a gun

Hannah Gutierrez Reed holds a gun on the set of “Rust.” (New Mexico Courts)

Halls explained that once Gutierrez Reed unloaded the gun, he saw five dummy rounds and one round that appeared “distinctly different” from the others. 

“I recall it as being gray, metallic gray,” he said in court. “And I recall that it was, it was just completely different looking.”

Halls also testified he never instructed Gutierrez Reed to leave the church in the minutes before the fatal shooting nor did he realize she had exited until after the shooting. 

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“In your experience, does the armor hand off a gun and then walk away and leave?” special prosecutor Kari Morrissey asked. 

“That’s not my experience,” Halls responded.

Halls explained that it’s “important” the truth behind the fatal shooting “be known. That Halyna’s husband and son, her family, know the truth of what happened.

“It’s important that the cast and the crew, producers of ‘Rust’, know what happened,” he added. “And important that the industry — the motion picture and television industry — knows what happened so that this never happens again.”

Alec Baldwin sits in Rust church

Alec Baldwin sitting in the church where Hutchins was killed in outtakes from the “Rust” production. (New Mexico Courts)

Earlier that day, the jury was shown video footage of Baldwin on the set seemingly rushing the filming process. After filming a take walking out of a shed and firing a pistol, Baldwin yelled, “One more! One more! One more! Right away! Let’s reload!”

In another shot, he can be heard yelling, “Here we go! C’mon. We should have two guns and both we’re reloading.”

While Baldwin was shouting, the footage showed Gutierrez Reed rushing to reload the gun.

Baldwin is also facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death.

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The behind-the-scenes video clips shown Thursday in court presented a series of safety failures, the prosecution team argued. Bryan Carpenter, an expert armorer witness, testified that even if Baldwin or production were rushing the set, it’s the armorer’s job to slow down and make sure safety measures are followed.

“You take on the responsibility of safety for another person,” Carpenter testified. “You take on the responsibility of making sure that you do what’s necessary, even if it’s inconvenient, even if it’s not in your best interest. And if that isn’t something that you feel capable of doing, then you should never step into that position.”

Gutierrez Reed’s legal team has claimed Baldwin ignored the armorer’s requests for additional safety training before the fatal shooting occurred.

Hannah Gutierrez Reed looks down in court

Hannah Gutierrez Reed lowers her head in her hands during her trial. (Courtesy: New Mexico Courts)

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Gutierrez Reed’s trial began with jury selection Feb. 21. The process took a full day, with seven men and five women selected. Along with involuntary manslaughter, Gutierrez Reed is facing an evidence tampering charge. The armorer was charged after allegedly passing off a bag of cocaine on the same day as the fatal “Rust” shooting.

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