‘Rust’ Crew Member Sues Gun Handlers, Producers and Alec Baldwin
A crew member for “Rust” filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the movie’s producers, Alec Baldwin and several other members of the crew who were tasked with handling guns on set, accusing them of failing to follow safety protocols that would have prevented the fatal shooting of the film’s cinematographer on the set last month.
Serge Svetnoy, the gaffer, or chief lighting technician, on the film, was standing about six or seven feet away from Mr. Baldwin on the set in New Mexico as the crew prepared for a scene in which Mr. Baldwin’s character drew a .45 Colt revolver from his shoulder holster and pointed it in the “general direction of the camera,” according to the lawsuit.
When the gun discharged, the lawsuit said, it was the “loudest gunshot that he has ever experienced on a movie set.”
“He felt a strange and terrifying whoosh of what felt like pressurized air from his right,” according to the suit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. “He felt what he believed was gunpowder and other residual materials from the gun directly strike the right side of his face and scratch the lenses of the eyeglasses he was wearing.”
The lawsuit accuses producers and other crew members of failing to properly inspect the revolver before it was handed to Mr. Baldwin. According to court papers, the movie’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, called out “cold gun” before handing it to Mr. Baldwin, which indicated that it did not contain live ammunition. Law enforcement officials later determined that it did contain a live bullet, which killed the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, 42, and wounded the director, Joel Souza, 48.
Mr. Svetnoy is described in the lawsuit as a close friend of Ms. Hutchins, an up-and-coming cinematographer, and it said he had worked with her on nine films since 2017. He held her on the ground as she lay bleeding after she was shot, the lawsuit said.
At a news conference in Los Angeles with his lawyer, Gary A. Dordick, Mr. Svetnoy quietly described holding her in the aftermath of the shooting, talking to her as she lay dying. “I tried to save her life,” he said.
The lawsuit described the chain of possession of people who handled the .45 Colt shortly before the shooting on Oct. 21, and accused each person of failing to properly check the gun. According to the lawsuit, Sarah Zachry, the prop master on “Rust,” handed the gun to Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer, who loaded it. Then, the lawsuit said, Mr. Halls “failed to thoroughly and properly inspect it” before declaring it safe to handle.
The lawsuit also accused Mr. Baldwin of behaving negligently when he failed to ensure that the gun “was indeed ‘cold’” before he practiced with it, saying that he should have double-checked to make sure that it contained no live ammunition and that duty called for him to handle the gun “as if it was loaded and to refrain from pointing it at anyone.” The lawsuit said that the scene did not call for Mr. Baldwin to shoot the revolver.
A lawyer for Mr. Baldwin did not immediately comment on the suit.
Defendants in the lawsuit include Rust Movie Productions LLC, the company created to produce the western; its star, Mr. Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film; Ms. Gutierrez-Reed; Ms. Zachry; Mr. Halls; and several producers with the project.
Mr. Svetnoy said in the lawsuit that the movie’s producers had “declined requests for weapons training days, failed to allow proper time to prepare for gunfire, failed to send out safety bulletins with call sheets, spread staff too thin, failed to ensure that industry safety standards were strictly observed when preparing and filming with firearms and engaged in other cost-cutting moves.”
The suit seeks damages on Mr. Svetnoy’s behalf, noting that he was injured by the discharge materials that struck him and traumatized by seeing his friend die, leaving him unable to work.
A lawyer for Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, Jason Bowles, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he had not yet reviewed it. Mr. Bowles has previously said that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed loaded the gun with what she believed to be dummy rounds, which do not contain gunpowder, and faulted the production for lax safety.
Ms. Zachry and a lawyer for Mr. Halls, Lisa Torraco, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Ms. Torraco said in a television interview that checking the gun was not Mr. Halls’s job.
“The guns and ammunition on the ‘Rust’ set were required to be properly stored, properly inspected, and properly handled,” Mr. Svetnoy’s lawsuit said. “It should have been well known to all cast and crew on the ‘Rust’ set that the Colt revolver was not a toy and was capable of killing if mismanaged, misloaded and/or mishandled. Instead of following proper firearm safety protocols and practices, defendants handled the guns and ammunition in a wanton, reckless and unsafe manner on the ‘Rust’ set, and this thoroughly avoidable tragedy ensued.”
Julia Jacobs reported from New York, Adam Nagourney from Los Angeles, and Graham Bowley from Toronto.