Expert in Old West firearms says gun wouldn’t malfunction in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

SANTA FE, N.M. — Courtroom testimony by an independent weapons expert on Tuesday cast new doubt on Alec Baldwin’s account that his gun went off without pulling the trigger in the fatal shooting of a cameraman during a 2021 rehearsal on the set of the Western film ‘Rust ‘.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. A trial is scheduled for July in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a film rehearsal on the outskirts of Santa Fe.

“Rust” arms dealer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is currently on trial for her possible role in the death, pleading not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. The trial against the gunsmith has complex consequences for Baldwin, who has not appeared in court.

On Tuesday, firearms expert Lucien Haag gave a lengthy demonstration of the operation of a single-action Colt revolver, like the one Baldwin was holding, and safety features that prevent a fully cocked hammer from striking and firing ammunition unless the trigger is pressed.

An FBI expert testified in court Monday that the revolver used by Baldwin was fully functional and had safety features when it arrived at an FBI laboratory. The expert said he had to hit the fully cocked weapon with a hammer and break it so it could fire without pulling the trigger.

Haag, an Arizona-based consultant and expert on Old West firearms, testified Tuesday that he saw no evidence the gun was broken or modified before it was tested by the FBI.

“Have you seen any evidence that the full-cock hammer or notch has been filed or modified to permit faster firing?” asked prosecutor Kari Morrissey. “No,” Haag replied.

Haag and a colleague reassembled the gun with only one damaged part – the hammer – to demonstrate that the safety features still functioned – stopping the hammer under various conditions when the trigger was not pressed.

The jury watched a video of that experiment with Baldwin’s gun, in which the hammer was pulled back and released several times — each time being caught by a safety notch before it could hit the ammunition chamber to fire the gun.

“If you try to cock the gun and you lose your grip on it, the hammer falls — that safety notch catches it,” Haag said.

The lead Santa Fe detective on the “Rust” investigation said she had been notified that the FBI would be conducting tests on Baldwin’s gun that could damage or destroy the weapon.

“We continued testing because Mr. Baldwin made statements that he did not pull the trigger. And I think his exact explanation was that the gun had just gone off,” said Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Detective Alexandra Hancock. “So we had to figure out how to disprove that theory or that claim. And that was the way that was presented to us, and what the FBI could do.”

Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed say the problems on the “Rust” set were beyond their client’s control and have pointed to shortcomings in evidence gathering and debriefings after the fatal shooting. They say “Rust’s main ammunition supplier,” Seth Kenney, was not properly investigated.

Hancock delved into her investigation into both Gutierrez-Reed and Kenney during extensive testimony Tuesday, as she watched a series of videotaped interviews with Gutierrez-Reed about the “Quiet” that unfolded in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting , later that day in an interrogation room and again weeks later. Gutierrez-Reed did not testify during the trial, although she was present behind the defense table.

The first video from a police lapel camera shows a dejected Gutierrez-Reed moments after the fatal shooting.

“Welcome to the worst day of my life,” the gunsmith told the detective after the shooting, but before she knew of Hutchins’ death. “I can’t believe Alec Baldwin was holding the gun.”

Prosecutors highlighted inconsistencies in Gutierrez-Reed’s videotaped statements, debunking her claim that she inspected all the bullets in Baldwin’s gun before the shooting by shaking them for a telltale rattle. That shaking can identify inert dummy bullets with gunpowder replaced with BBs, but researchers say at least one bullet contained no BBs and was marked as a dummy by a hole in the side.

Hancock testified that she initially investigated Kenney as the potential source of live ammunition, which is expressly prohibited on film sets, but discovered that he never went to the set of “Rust” and that a search of his home in Albuquerque turned up live rounds. which bore no resemblance to live rounds later discovered on the set of “Rust,” including the round that killed Hutchins.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez-Reed told investigators in November 2021 that she had retrieved loose ammunition from a bag left over from work on a previous film, checked that they were dummy bullets and sent the bullets to the “Rust” set in two boxes. had brought. ammunition was first left in her car for two weeks.

Asked about possible sabotage by cast or crew members, Gutierrez-Reed dismissed the idea, saying no one there was “that evil.” Six members of the film crew left their jobs the night before the fatal shooting due to a dispute over working conditions.

Gutierrez-Reed also previously told investigators, including Hancock, that Baldwin spoke on the phone during a firearms training session for “Rust,” indicating he may have been distracted.

Defense attorneys had not yet had the opportunity to question Hancock on Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege Gutierrez-Reed is responsible for bringing live ammunition onto the set and that she viewed basic gun safety protocols as optional. They say six live rounds found on the “Rust” set have identical characteristics – and do not match live rounds seized from the film’s supplier in Albuquerque.