IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Rust' armorer's attorney suggests sabotage may have led to fatal on-set shooting

"How did a live round get on set, and who put that live round on the set?" an attorney for "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed asked.
Get more newsLiveon

An attorney for the armorer on the movie set where actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer said Wednesday that he believes someone might have been trying to sabotage the set by putting a live round in a box of dummy ammunition.

"How did a live round get on set, and who put that live round on the set?" Jason Bowles, an attorney for "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, asked on NBC's "TODAY" show.

Robert Gorence, Gutierrez-Reed's other attorney, also joined the interview.

"There was a box of dummy rounds labeled 'dummy,'" Bowles said. "We don’t know whether the live round came from that box. We’re assuming somebody put the live round in that box."

The attorney did not provide evidence to support his theory, but Bowles floated a possible motive.

Members of the crew had walked off the set the day before the fatal incident. Bowles said a working theory is that somebody who would "want to sabotage the set, want to prove a point, want to say they're disgruntled, they're unhappy" may have put a live round or live rounds in the box of blanks. Bowles didn't mention that the crew members who quit did so over what they said were lacking safety measures.

Lane Luper, the A-camera first assistant, had resigned the day before the shooting, saying in a resignation email that safety procedures were “fast and loose” when filming gunfights for the movie. Luper said there had been two accidental weapons discharges on set.

Several other crew members had also walked off the set over safety concerns, including the misfires of the prop gun, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Gutierrez-Reed's attorneys said on the "TODAY" show that guns were left unattended for two hours on the day of the shooting. Bowles later told NBC News that he and Gorence had been mistaken. After consulting Gutierrez-Reed again, he said they had been locked up in a safe during lunch and had only been left unattended for a total of five to 10 minutes.

"Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer," her attorneys said in a statement last week.

"She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings," the statement said.

But sources within the production told NBC News Friday that it's common practice for an armorer, like Gutierrez-Reed, to also have separate responsibilities within a prop team. And in Gutierrez-Reed's case on "Rust," she only worked two days in props and never had dual prop and weapons responsibilities on the same day, the production sources said.

Also last week, Mike Tristano, who has supervised firearms on film sets for more than 30 years, said that the responsibility lies with the armorer to ensure the safety of guns and ammunition on set. “The buck always stops” with the armorer, he said.

Gutierrez-Reed's attorneys added on Wednesday that she was not in the church at the time of the shooting that left photography director Halyna Hutchins dead and director Joel Souza injured.

"It wasn’t set up to have that dynamic of we’re going to use one of these firearms," Gorence said.

The circumstances of the shooting in New Mexico are under investigation, and no charges have been filed.