New Mexico fines film company for Alec Baldwin shooting

Morgan Lee, The Associated Press

Published Wednesday, April 20, 2022 2:38 PM EDT

Last updated on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 5:41 PM EDT

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine of nearly $137,000 on Wednesday against a film production company for firearms safety issues on the set of “Rust,” starring actor and producer Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cameraman in October.

The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau said Rust Movie Productions must pay $136,793, spreading a scathing story of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set prior to the fatal shooting. The agency also documented gun safety complaints from crew members that were ignored and said weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions about additional safety training.

“What we had, based on our researchers’ findings, was a set of clear hazards to workers related to the use of firearms and the failure of management to respond to these clear hazards,” said Bob Genoway, bureau chief for occupational safety. , to The Associated Press.

At a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021, Baldwin pointed a gun at cameraman Halyna Hutchins in a small church while setting up for filming a scene when it went off, killing Hutchins and director Joel injuring Souza.

Baldwin said in a December interview with ABC News that he pointed the gun at Hutchins at her instruction on the New Mexico set of the western film when it went off without him pulling the trigger.

The new occupational safety report confirms that a large-caliber revolver was handed to Baldwin by a deputy director, David Halls, without consulting the weapons specialists present during or after the gun was loaded. Regulators note that Halls also acted as a safety coordinator and that he attended and witnessed two accidental gun discharges on set, and that he and other executives who were aware of the misfires had no investigative, corrective or disciplinary action. taken. Crew members expressed their surprise and discomfort.

“The safety coordinator was on set and took no immediate action to address safety concerns,” the report said. “Management was given multiple opportunities to take corrective action and chose not to. As a result of these failures, director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were seriously injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries.”

Rust Movie Productions said through a spokesperson it would dispute the findings and sanctions.

“While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in the investigation, we disagree with the findings and plan to appeal,” said Stefan Friedman. Any appeal would initially be heard by the state commission on health and safety at work.

Baldwin released a statement from his attorney claiming that the security investigation “exonerates Mr. Baldwin.”

A lawyer for Halls was not immediately available.

The state fine applies to a film with a budget of approximately $7 million. Baldwin was awarded a $250,000 salary as an actor and producer and may have put some of that money back into the production.

At least five lawsuits have been filed over the shooting, including a tort lawsuit brought by Hutchins’ family against Baldwin and the film’s other producers. The lawsuit on behalf of widower Matt Hutchins and his 9-year-old son alleges an “insensitive” neglect in light of safety complaints on set.

James Kenney, secretary of the Department of the Environment that oversees workplace safety, said the agency spent 1,500 hours researching, examining hundreds of documents and conducting at least a dozen interviews with cast and crew members.

Investigators found that production managers placed strict resource restrictions on a small team that checked the guns on set and did not address concerns about a shotgun that had been left unattended twice.

Gunmaker Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the daughter of a marksman and film production consultant, was limited to eight paid days as a gun master to oversee weapons and training, and was otherwise assigned to lighter duties as a props assistant. When her time as a gunsmith ran out, Gutierrez alerted Reed to a manager and was turned down.

Gutierrez Reed is both plaintiff and defendant in lawsuits seeking damages in the deadly shooting. In a statement Wednesday, her attorney emphasized findings that the gunsmith was “not being given sufficient time or resources to perform her job effectively.”

Security researchers also note that the manufacturing company has not developed a process to ensure that live ammunition is not brought onto the set, which violates industry security protocols. Security meetings were held, but weapons were not used every day as required.

Kenney said separate investigations into possible criminal charges are still ongoing. The Santa Fe County Sheriff and local prosecutors had no immediate comment.

Kenney said his agency has not received direct security complaints from cast or crew prior to the deadly shooting, even though anonymity is provided.

“This tragedy, this loss of life, it could have been prevented, and we want people to say something,” he said.

Kenney was appointed in 2019 by Democratic government leader Michelle Lujan Grisham, a staunch advocate for the film industry who raised a government ceiling on industrial incentives shortly after taking office.

New Mexico competes with non-Hollywood manufacturing sites in states such as Georgia, Louisiana and New York. Film productions have flocked to New Mexico in recent years to take advantage of its diverse outdoor landscape, moderate costs and generous government incentives, including a discount of between 25% and 35% of the in-state video production spending that filmmakers, large and small, have. , helps to insure their work.

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