‘Rust’ Trial: Gun Expert Describes ‘Perfectly Functioning’ Weapon That ‘Would Fire’ if Cocked With Trigger Depressed

“The very instant [Alec Baldwin] let go of the hammer, it would fire,” Lucien Haag tells the New Mexico jury

There was nothing apparently wrong with the replica Colt .45 with which Alec Baldwin accidentally shot “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021, a firearms expert testifying for the prosecution said Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.

Lucien Haag, who for decades has worked with New Mexico law enforcement on firearms and ballistics cases, took the stand and said he extensively inspected and tested the firearm after it was damaged by FBI investigators. He said the federal team had apparently tested the weapon’s hammer by striking or dropping it – which he called “unnecessary” and led to a pause in the case – but once he reconstructed it, the gun was “perfectly functioning.”

Gutierrez-Reed faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering, with a potential prison sentence of up to three years. The trial began last week in New Mexico before a Santa Fe jury that will determine whether the 24-year-old armorer bears responsibility in the accidental shooting death of Hutchins.

Haag walked the jury through his credentials and testing process before the Tuesday lunch break, and immediately upon return, was asked by prosecutor Jason Lewis about his final determination.

“I think it [is] your conclusion that the Baldwin revolver that you examined, in your expert opinion – that the shooter had to have fully cocked that weapon and pulled the trigger to fire it?” Lewis asked.

“Either fully pulled the trigger, or already depressed it,” Haag said. “If he’d already depressed it, the very instant he let go of the hammer, it would fire.”

Lewis also asked Haag if he could determine from video of the incident whether Baldwin had his finger on or inside the trigger guard during a “cross-draw” maneuver the producer and actor was apparently practicing when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

“I could never resolve that from the camera angle,” Haag said. “You can see him cocking it, [once it’s] clear of the holster. But I can’t determine if [the trigger] is already depressed, or whether he pulled it.”

Baldwin maintained after the shooting and in subsequent interviews that he “never” pulled the trigger – and would not do such a thing.

Later Tuesday, prosecutors showed bodycam and interview-room footage from Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Officer Alexandria Hancock, who spoke with Gutierrez-Reed immediately after the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting.

“I’m never working in this industry again,” an audibly despondent Gutierrez-Reed was heard saying at one point, as Hancock escorted her to the bathroom and her squad vehicle. “My career is over.”

Hancock said the then-24-year-old armorer, who was just getting her start after years of training with her father [Thell Reed, a top industry firearms expert], didn’t want to be seen by the crew that day. At one point Gutierrez-Reed described the immediate aftermath, saying she was “yelled at” and asked to inspect the gun, which showed signs of a live projectile having been ejected.

Gutierrez-Reed told investigators that the “dummy” ammunition for “Rust” had come from three different sources, including two named prop houses and her own supply. Back at the police station, Gutierrez-Reed agreed to speak to Hancock and another detective without her lawyer present.

When asked if she ever had live rounds on set, Gutierrez-Reed answered: “No, never.”

During opening statements last week, state prosecutor Jason Lewis asserted that Gutierrez-Reed’s “unprofessional and sloppy” conduct was a contributing factor. Lewis said Gutierrez-Reed failed twice to properly check ammunition loaded into the gun wielded that October day by Baldwin, who is expected to also stand trial later this summer on separate manslaughter charges.

Gutierrez-Reed’s defense lawyers laid the blame on Baldwin. It was Baldwin, the lawyer argued, who “really controlled the set” and also called the armorer “an easy target – the least powerful person on that set.”

The trial, expected to last at least two weeks, will feature several key witnesses, including Souza and David Halls, the first assistant director.

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