“Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed has sued the weapons provider on the low-budget western, alleging he supplied a miss-marked box of ammunition containing live rounds to the set, contributing to the deadly accident involving actor Alec Baldwin.
Gutierrez Reed’s lawsuit was filed late Wednesday in New Mexico’s 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque against Seth Kenney and his firm, PDQ Arm & Prop. The suit alleges that Kenney and PDQ violated New Mexico’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by introducing dangerous products onto the movie set and by providing ammunition with “false label representations.”
A box of ammunition, which surfaced on the set near Santa Fe on the morning of the fatal Oct. 21 accident, was labeled “dummies” already though the box contained seven live rounds mixed in with 43 dummies, according to the suit.
Kenney has said he did not supply live rounds to “Rust,” including the one that Baldwin fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring the film’s director, Joel Souza.
“PDQ Arm & Prop, LLC provided the guns, Blanks and a portion of Dummy Rounds to Rust,” Kenney said in a statement provided to The Times in late November. “Consistent with the safe industry standards, PDQ did not provide Live Ammunition to Rust.”
Neither Kenney nor his attorney was closest obtainable for comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit comes as Santa Fe County Sheriff’s investigators continue to pursue details about the accident that heightened calls for greater safety measures on film sets.
Deputies have been scrutinizing the actions of Baldwin — the star and producer who fired the prop gun during a rehearsal — in addition as assistant director David Halls, who was responsible for safety on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set; and Gutierrez Reed, the production’s 24-year-old armorer, who was responsible for the guns, ammunition and gun safety.
Gutierrez Reed before told sheriff’s detectives that while she checked Baldwin’s gun that day before the unscheduled rehearsal, she “didn’t really check it too much,” because the weapon had been locked in a safe during a lunch break, according to an Nov. 30 affidavit filed by a sheriff’s detective.
In her lawsuit, Gutierrez Reed said she did not hand Baldwin the weapon after the lunch break, as is the usual practice, saying she was unaware the gun was going to be used in a rehearsal.
Instead, she presented the gun to Halls, who told investigators he did not check all the rounds in the gun before it was handed to Baldwin.
The suit paints Gutierrez Reed as a low-level worker who was to be paid $7,500 for performing two jobs on “Rust” as the armorer responsible for weapons on the gun-heavy film and as assistant to the prop master.
The lawsuit speculated that the ammunition came from Gutierrez Reed’s father, Thell Reed, who is a noted Hollywood armorer. Kenney worked with Thell Reed on another western filmed last summer in Texas, and during that production, Kenney asked Thell Reed to bring live ammunition so they could take actors on that film, “1883,” to a firing range and show them how it felt to fire a vintage gun.
Reed before told investigators that Kenney returned to New Mexico with his can of ammunition. The can contained 200 to 300 live rounds of ammunition, according to the suit. Santa Fe Sheriff’s deputies searched Kenney’s PDQ shop in Albuquerque on Nov. 30.
The lawsuit alleges without documentation that Kenney and PDQ Arm & Prop then provided some of the ammunition to “Rust” in a box labeled “45 Colt Dummies” already though “the contents contained both dummy and live ammunition,” the suit said.
“These false representations caused live rounds to be introduced on set, resulting in a foreseeably extreme outcome, and causing damages to persons on the Rust set.”
According to the lawsuit, Gutierrez Reed was surprised to find a complete box of ammunition sitting atop her equipment bag in the prop truck when she arrived for work around 6:30 a.m. “Hannah exclaimed words to the effect of ‘What is this?’ We have been looking for a complete box of dummy rounds for weeks! Where did this come from?” the suit states.
The Times before reported that, in the days closest following the shooting, character master Sarah Zachry told an acquaintance that the emergence of a new box of ammunition that morning was puzzling.
Zachry served as PDQ’s firearms representative on “Rust,” Kenney has said.
At 10 a.m. Zachry, Gutierrez Reed and a prop assistant loaded five rounds into Baldwin’s gun and two other guns using bullets from the box that been found in prop truck that morning, according to the lawsuit.
Gutierrez Reed, wo believed the box only contained dummy rounds, tried to load a sixth bullet, but it got stuck. Throughout the morning, Baldwin handled the gun with the five rounds.
After lunch, Gutierrez Reed cleaned a chamber in Baldwin’s gun and then “pulled another round from the dummy box, shook it, and placed it in the chamber,” the suit said.
The film’s props department safeguarded the guns, but not the ammunition, the lawsuit states.
“Throughout production on the Rust set, prior to the shooting, the prop truck was virtually always left unlocked and easy to reach by anyone,” the suit said. It also noted that sheriff’s investigators did not search the prop truck until six days after the shooting.
Will Waggoner, Zachry’s attorney, said there were numerous inaccuracies in the lawsuit’s depiction of his client.
“Did PDQ did something wrong? Who knows, they may have. But I know my client didn’t,” Waggoner said.
Gutierrez Reed’s rule attorney, Jason Bowles, has before floated the idea of “sabotage” on set — without providing evidence of the claims.
The lawsuit pieces together a series of events before and after the fatal shooting, including Kenney’s interactions with Thell Reed and one of Reed’s friends. It also contained a text message in which Kenney objected to Bowles’ “sabotage” claims.
“There is nothing to be attained by Hannah and her Attorneys dragging me into this,” Kenney wrote in one text message to Thell Reed. “If anything the DA may perceive this as an unapologetic scapegoat tactic and lower the expansion already harder. You and I will be collateral damage in this tragedy and approach, it makes no sense.”
After the shooting, according to the lawsuit, Kenney promoted Guttierez Reed to cooperate with the police and to “implicate AD Halls as being the person responsible for the tragedy,” the lawsuit said.
“You’re young, certainly not green or inexperienced with period weapons but did you get rolled over by the set system and the AD w/30+ years of experience?” Kenney wrote in one text message to Gutierrez Reed, which was copied in the lawsuit. “I think you did, and you’re too proud to say that. Had you been partnered up with a truly specialized AD none of this would’ve happened.”
Staff writer Julia Wick contributed to this report.
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