‘Rust’ Production Manager Testifies: Camera Crew Walked Off the Night Before Deadly Shooting Over Safety Concerns

The unit production manager from “Rust” testified Friday in the manslaughter trial of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, corroborating investigators’ reports that the film’s six-person camera crew walked off the project the night before the deadly accidental shooting over safety concerns raised following multiple accidental discharges of prop firearms.

However, Catherine Elizabeth Walters told the jury that no one specifically complained about Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for firearm care and safety on the ill-fated New Mexico set in 2021 as the armorer.

Walters also said she had “heard” that star and producer Alec Baldwin – who accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the incident – wasn’t paying attention during firearms training, but didn’t witness it herself.

Catherine Elizabeth Walters [Screenshot from CourtTV]
Catherine Elizabeth Walters [Screenshot from CourtTV]

State lawyers asked Walters about how she learned of the camera-crew’s mass walk-off. “I received resignation letters the night before,” she replied.

The following morning, the six-person crew showed up to gather their personal effects while Walters made phone calls to scramble replacements. Investigators had previously noted the crew’s walk-off.

Walters was then asked if any of the crew mentioned Gutierrez-Reed by name. “I never heard any complaints about her,” she told the jury.

Gutierrez-Reed faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering, with a potential prison sentence of up to three years. The trial began Thursday in New Mexico with opening statements before a Santa Fe jury that will determine whether the 24-year-old armorer bears responsibility in Hutchins’ death.

On cross-examination by Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers, Walters said the prop trucks where guns were stored were not locked or guarded during filming hours, usually from 6 to 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. most days. “Everybody on set could have had access,” she said.

With no further questions for Walters from either side – and being that it was Friday – Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer called an early recess and admonished the jury not to research the case over the weekend.

During Thursday’s opening statements, state prosecutor Jason Lewis asserted that Gutierrez-Reed’s “unprofessional and sloppy” conduct was a contributing factor. Lewis said Gutierrez-Reed failed twice to properly check ammunition loaded into the replica Colt .45 wielded that October day by Alec Baldwin, who is expected to also stand trial later this summer on separate manslaughter charges.

During his turn, Gutierrez-Reed’s defense lawyer Jason Bowles laid the blame on Baldwin, the low-budget Western film’s producer and star. It was Baldwin, he argued, who “really controlled the set,” and called the armorer “an easy target – the least powerful person on that set.”

The trial, expected to last at least two weeks, will feature key witnesses, including Joel Souza, the film’s director who was also injured in the shooting, and David Halls, the first assistant director.

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