Lawsuit: Baldwin had no reason to fire in 'Rust' shooting

FILE - This aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. The person in charge of weapons on the movie set at the ranch where actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins said Wednesday night, Nov. 3 that she suspects someone put in a live bullet in the prop gun that Baldwin shot.

LOS ANGELES — The head of lighting for the Rust film production filed a lawsuit Wednesday over Alec Baldwin’s fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, alleging negligence caused him “severe emotional distress” that will haunt him forever.

Serge Svetnoy said in the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the bullet that killed his close friend Hutchins narrowly missed him, and he held her head as she died.

The lawsuit names nearly two dozen defendants associated with the film, including Baldwin, who was the star and a producer; David Halls, the assistant director who might have handed Baldwin the gun; and Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was in charge of weapons on the set.

It is the first known lawsuit of what could be many stemming from the Oct. 21 shooting, which also injured Rust director Joel Souza.

“Simply put there was no reason for a live bullet to be placed in that .45 Colt revolver or to be present anywhere on the ‘Rust’ set, and the presence of a bullet in a revolver posed a lethal threat to everyone in its vicinity,” the lawsuit says.

The suit says Svetnoy was setting up lighting within 6 or 7 feet of Baldwin.

“What happened next will haunt Plaintiff forever,” the suit says. “He felt a strange and terrifying whoosh of what felt like pressurized air from his right. He felt what he believed was gunpowder and other residual materials directly strike the right side of his face.”

Then, with his glasses scratched and his hearing muffled, he knelt to help Hutchins, the suit says.

The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages to be determined later. It was filed in Los Angeles County because the plaintiff and most of the defendants are based there.

Attorneys and representatives for the defendants did not immediately respond to email and phone messages seeking comment on the suit.

Gutierrez Reed’s Albuquerque lawyer, Jason Bowles, said in a statement Wednesday, “We are convinced this was sabotage and Hannah is being framed. We believe that the scene was tampered with as well before the police arrived.”

Bowles said his client has provided authorities with a full interview and continues to assist them. The statement did not address the lawsuit.

“We are asking for a full and complete investigation of all of the facts, including the live rounds themselves, how they ended up in the ‘dummies’ box, and who put them in there,” the statement said.

Gutierrez Reed said last week she had inspected the gun Baldwin shot but doesn’t know how a live bullet ended up inside.

Halls, the assistant director, said last week he hoped the tragedy prompted the film industry to “reevaluate its values and practices” to ensure no one is harmed again, but did not provide details.

Authorities have said Halls handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun,” indicating the weapon was safe to use.

Baldwin said on video Oct. 30 the shooting was a “one-in-a-trillion event,” adding, “We were a very, very well-oiled crew shooting a film together and then this horrible event happened.”

Souza told detectives Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he drew a revolver from his holster and pointed it toward the camera, which Hutchins and Souza were behind, according to court records.

Souza said the scene did not call for the use of live rounds, and Gutierrez Reed said real ammo should never have been present, according to court records.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said there was “some complacency” in how weapons were handled on the set. Authorities have said much investigation still needs to be done before getting to a point where criminal charges could be considered.

Hollywood professionals have been baffled by the circumstances of the movie-set shooting. It already has led to other production crews stepping up safety measures.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(8) comments

loren bjork

FIRSTLY no real guns should be used on sets and never ever ever should a gun be pointed and the trigger pulled at a director. why would anyone do that? that was not an actor or part of the script. There is something very wrong here.. her new movie about pedophilia was to come out next week now is there a connection? I do NOT know at all but something is wrong. People that kill innocent people in car accidents get charged with vehicular manslaughter... HE NEEDS to be charged HE aimed a gun at a director HE pulled the trigger no excuses even if it was a prop and not fired a live bullet his actions were WRONG> secondly.. I really wonder why when the news team was showing the movie set and going through some of the buildings.. I saw a flash of a masonic symbol the (square and compass) on a glass door? on a western film from the 1880's? what is it doing there? I got a picture on my phone.. THAT is really weird to me.

Richard Reinders

The square an compass has been used since the 1700’s

Chris Mechels

The pathetic Sheriff Mendoza, whose cops get the worst training in the state, would have us believe these incompetents will do a credible investigation. This should have been investigated by the NMSP and the Attorney General.

Vote Mendoza out.... also the Governor, who is so intent of paying film makers to come to New Mexico that its "anything goes", with no state standards, on the sets. Truly the Wild West, no laws, and we'll pay you to "shoot" here. Now she's counting on the movie folks to "regulate" themselves, so she doesn't have to. Like allowing PNM to "regulate" themselves, and rip us off. She's a NON manager, but heavy on PR, and bullying. She's pathetic...

Kirk Holmes

This whole unfortunate sad event may end up being the grounds for making a movie about it. Definitely not material for the Hallmark Channel. Possibly the Lifetime Movie Network. More fitting for Oxygen. But definitely will end up as a segment on Headline News Investigation Discovery.

Emily Hartigan

The first thing you do when a dear friend dies is try to make money from it.

Stefanie Beninato

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Greedy beyond belief!

David Heath

Were there no fingerprints on the spent shell casing?

Richard Reinders

A real who done it. I said earlier there would be a Hollywood twist put on it with finger pointing everywhere.

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