Alec Baldwin exonerated for Rust movie set shooting: Was this right?


Fact Box

  • Alec Baldwin is an American actor and activist known for his comedic talent as Jack Donaghy on NBC’s 30 Rock, doing impersonations of Donald Trump on SNL, as well as playing many other versatile roles
  • New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined Rust Movie Productions $136,793 for violating safety procedures and industry protocols for the death of Halyna Hutchins and injury of Joel Souza on the set of “Rust.” In response, Rust Movie Productions asserted, “While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort [...] we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal.”
  • After the release of the New Mexico’s safety investigation summary, Baldwin posted a written message from his attorney noting, “We appreciate that the report exonerates Mr. Baldwin by making clear that he believed the gun held only dummy rounds.” 
  • On October 23, 2021, Baldwin discharged a prop gun on the set of the movie “Rust” in New Mexico that tragically killed cinematographer Hutchins and injured Director Souza
  • Information was released via search warrants showing Baldwin was “practicing” a cross draw with the prop gun before being fired. An assistant director had handed the gun to Baldwin notifying him of a “cold gun,” but Cameraman Reid Russell said he was unsure if the weapon was checked before firing.

Siam (No)

Alec Baldwin is premature in claiming that his attorney's claims regarding the New Mexico investigation outcome exonerated him from Halyna Hutchins' death. Nowhere in the report does it state Baldwin or anyone else at that scene of the Rust shoot have been ‘exonerated.’ It was a summary of what he received from his lawyer, but the full report contains much more detail.  

The report points out that Dave Halls, the assistant director, handed a loaded gun to Baldwin, but the latter did not know it was loaded. The report then says, 'Alec Baldwin's authority on the set included approving script changes and actor candidates. Baldwin handled the revolver and fired the round that struck and injured Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza.' 

More importantly, the report clearly states that Baldwin fired the gun, but in many interviews and social media posts, Baldwin has claimed he did not fire the gun. And to make matters worse, the report features intense criticism of Rush Productions, adding, 'Rust willfully violated the Occupational Health and Safety Act by demonstrating plain indifference to the safety of employees and exposing those employees to the serious hazards associated with firearm use.' 

And what Baldwin fails to mention is that the Rust Company was fined over $136K for causing Hutchins’ death. Finally, the report states the accident was deliberate; even though Rust management members were aware of firearm safety procedures, they didn't follow them on the set, with plain indifference to the safety of employees. The standards of the film industry for firearm safety were clearly not met. It is important to remember that Baldwin was the producer and therefore carries responsibility for what happens on the set. This is by no means the end of the story.

Tyler (Yes)

Alec Baldwin's claims that recent reports 'completely exonerate' him from all blame in an on-set mishap are true. A thorough investigation conducted by the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau determined that Baldwin is not at fault. Although what unfolded was tragic, it could have been avoided through better communication and management through the film company.

The report further confirms Baldwin was informed there were just dummy rounds in the gun. Directors refused to acknowledge recent reports of two prior misfirings on the set, ignoring cast members' complaints regarding gun safety. Although Baldwin admits he pointed the gun at Hutchins as directed, he asserts he never pulled its trigger. Had Baldwin been aware, he would have had the opportunity to question or dispute whether he even wanted to partake in that particular scene.

Hannah Gutierrez, the armorer in charge of inspecting the firearms, was not provided with adequate time to ensure the safety of the so-called prop weapon. The OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) determined that Gutierrez was not called to inspect the weapon later used by Baldwin. He was informed that pointing the gun was 'absolutely necessary' for the scene. While he had some responsibility in regards to the creative portion of the film's production, he had no involvement with the decision to utilize a firearm in that scene. Baldwin was instructed to partake in a scene that used a deadly weapon presented to him as a prop gun that should have had absolutely no live rounds.

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