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Family of cinematographer killed on movie set sues Alec Baldwin and 'Rust' producers

Updated February 15, 2022 at 5:17 PM ET

The family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins is suing actor and producer Alec Baldwin and producers of the film Rust, on whose set she was shot and killed in October. Attorney Brian Panish, representing her husband Matthew Hutchins and their son, Andros, announced he and his firm filed a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico for "reckless behavior and cost-cutting" that caused Hutchins to lose her life.

The suit declares that Baldwin and the other producers "failed to perform industry standard safety checks and follow basic gun safety rules while using real guns to produce the movie Rust, with fatal consequences."

A scene was being rehearsed

Hutchins was behind the camera, prepping for a scene in the Western film at the Bonanza Creek Ranch outside of Santa Fe. The lawsuit says Baldwin, who was the lead actor, pointed a gun at Hutchins during the rehearsal. The gun, which had a live round, went off, fatally wounding her and injuring the film's director, Joel Souza. Baldwin has said he didn't know the gun had live ammunition, and that he didn't mean for it to go off.

"I didn't pull the trigger," Baldwin told ABC News in December. "I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never."

But the wrongful death complaint argues, "Halyna Hutchins deserved to live, and the Defendants had the power to prevent her death if they had only held sacrosanct their duty to protect the safety of every individual on a set where firearms were present instead of cutting corners on safety procedures where human lives were at stake, rushing to stay on schedule and ignoring numerous complaints of safety violations."

The suit says Baldwin and others neglected safety

During a press conference, the Hutchins' family attorneys said they did their own investigation of the incident, and presented a graphic, animated video of what they said happened. They allege, among other things, that Baldwin turned down cross draw gun safety training, and that he was not using a rubber or other kind of prop gun — both breaches of industry standards. Attorneys in the video noted that the crew had major safety concerns, and many of them had walked off the job before the shooting occurred. The video also quoted emails and text exchanges from crew members complaining that firearms had been discharged earlier during filming.

The Santa Fe Sheriff's Department continues its probe of the incident, but New Mexico investigators have talked about "some complacency" in how weapons were handled on the Rust set. They obtained a warrant for Baldwin's cellphone for more information, and three months after the shooting, he did turn it into authorities.

Other lawsuits are in progress

There have been several lawsuits filed over the shooting, though this is the first directly tied to those who were shot. The film's script supervisor and its lead camera operator, both of whom were standing a few feet away when Hutchins was shot, each filed a lawsuit over the trauma they went through. The production's main medic filed suit for emotional trauma and lost wages.

And the film's armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was named as a defendant in those lawsuits and blamed by some for the shooting, filed her own suit saying an ammunition supplier created dangerous conditions by including live ammunition in a box that was supposed to include only dummy rounds.

The tragedy set off discussions in Hollywood over the use of real guns during film and TV productions, and renewed calls for safety measures.

The 42-year-old cinematographer was mourned by many who championed her promising career. She grew up on a Soviet military base and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles.

On her Instagram page, Hutchins identified herself as a "restless dreamer" and "adrenaline junkie." She documented herself parachuting and exploring caves, among other adventures, and through her work with British filmmakers, became "fascinated with storytelling based on real characters."

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