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

Weapons expert points to possible explanation for how live rounds got on 'Rust' set

Live ammunition may have made its way to "Rust" via a prop supplier Thell Reed worked with months earlier, Reed told investigators.
Image: The set of "Rust" in the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021.
The set of "Rust" on Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23.Jae C. Hong / AP file

A search warrant affidavit filed Tuesday for a New Mexico film prop firm indicates that live ammunition on the deadly set of "Rust" might have originated with the storied stuntman Thell Reed.

Reed is the father of "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who has been under scrutiny for her role as caretaker of firearms on the set of the production.

The filing indicates that Thell Reed, who is also an armorer, did not intentionally provide the live rounds but that ammunition he took to an earlier, separate production might have made its way to the set of "Rust."

"Rust" director of photography Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed and director Joel Souza, 48, was injured when producer and actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot them before an afternoon filming session.

Reed told authorities that he had taken an "ammo can" of live rounds to another set earlier in the summer at the request of Seth Kenney, a movie gun supplier who is affiliated with the New Mexico prop firm PDQ Arm & Prop LLC, the target of Tuesday's search warrant filing.

Reed and Kenney worked together on the earlier production, according to the filing.

Reed told investigators that Kenney had asked him to bring live ammunition for actor training with live rounds at a firing range, according to the affidavit for the warrant filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

Reed's statement said Kenney already had live ammo but thought he might run out, according to the filing. Reed said he brought a can filled with as many as 300 rounds, it says.

He said that rounds of ammunition, including .45 caliber, were left over after the production and that Kenney took them back to New Mexico, the filing says. When Reed repeatedly tried to get the can and the ammo back from Kenney, he was rebuffed and ultimately told to "write it off," it says.

"Thell stated his ammunition may match the ammunition found on the set of 'Rust,'" the affidavit says.

Reed and Kenney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Investigators want to search the New Mexico business associated with Kenney, presumably to find the can or the ammo, which Reed described as "not factory made," according to the filing.

The filing says "Rust" prop master Sarah Zachry said the ammunition for that production was from multiple sources, including rounds that Gutierrez Reed brought from a previous production and some that were provided by another person. It is not clear how that narrative fits with the one about live rounds from a previous set.

According to Tuesday's filing, Zachry told investigators that she checked the box of ammunition on the prop cart after the shooting and compared it with the round she was handed — the suspected live round from the gun Baldwin fired.

Zachry said she found some cartridges in the box that would rattle, which signified that they were "dummy rounds." Others, however, did not, which led her to believe some were live, according to the filing.

In a written statement, Zachry's attorney, William J. Waggoner, said Zachry did not handle or load Baldwin's gun before the shooting, and was not responsible for loading ammunition into the boxes provided to the set by prop firm PDQ.

"Sarah Zachry has no knowledge about PDQ’s inner operations and how it loads its dummy rounds, or live rounds, or otherwise," the statement said. "It seems plausible to Ms. Zachry that the live rounds could have ended up on the set as the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office as the warrant indicates."

The shooting happened Oct. 21 after Baldwin was handed a gun that he was told was safe to use, investigators said in a previous affidavit. They said he was practicing with a handgun when it went off.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza has said the gun fired a live round, which killed Hutchins and wounded Souza.

Sheriff’s investigators recovered blanks, dummy rounds and what they suspected were live rounds from the set.

Jason Bowles, an attorney for Gutierrez Reed, said the search warrant was “a huge step forward …  to unearth the full truth of who put the live rounds on the ‘Rust’ set.”

Robert Gorence, another attorney for Gutierrez Reed, suggested in early November that someone might have sabotaged the set.

Producers of "Rust" have said little. In October, they said in a letter to cast and crew members: "As the investigation continues, we cannot respond to the comments that have been making their way into the media, on social media and elsewhere."