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Lawyer for ‘Rust’ Assistant Director Says Checking Gun Was Not His Job

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A lawyer for the assistant director on the film “Rust” — who law-enforcement officials said had handed a gun to the actor Alec Baldwin before it discharged a live round that killed the cinematographer — said in an interview on Fox News Monday that it was “not his responsibility” to check the weapon.

The assistant director, Dave Halls, had told a detective shortly after the fatal shooting that when the movie’s armorer had shown him the firearm to inspect its rounds, he “should have checked all of them, but didn’t,” according to an affidavit released by the Santa Fe County sheriff’s department. According to another affidavit, Mr. Halls had called out “cold gun,” indicating that the gun did not contain any live rounds, and handed it to Mr. Baldwin.

But Mr. Halls’s lawyer, Lisa Torraco, contended in an interview with Martha MacCallum on Fox News that the main responsibility for checking the gun was with the film’s armorer, claiming that it was “not the assistant director’s job.”

“What I can tell you is that expecting an assistant director to check a firearm is like telling the assistant director to check the camera angle or telling the assistant director to check sound or lighting,” she said in the interview. “That’s not the assistant director’s job. If he chooses to check the firearm because he wants to make sure that everyone’s safe, he can do that, but that’s not his responsibility.”

The film’s director, Joel Souza, who was wounded in the shooting, later told a detective that the firearms were checked by the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and “then the firearm is checked by the assistant director Dave Halls, who then gives it to the actor using the firearm,” according to another affidavit released as part of a search warrant application.

Larry Zanoff, a veteran armorer whose past films include “Django Unchained” and “Fantastic Four,” said it was common practice on a film set for the first assistant director to be one of the people responsible for inspecting guns on set, including checking to make sure a gun is empty before the armorer hands it to an actor.

The shooting on the set of “Rust” killed Halyna Hutchins, an up-and-coming cinematographer.

Since the shooting, public scrutiny has been largely focused on Mr. Halls and Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, because investigators reported that they handled the gun shortly before the incident. In an affidavit released by the sheriff’s department, a detective, Joel Cano, wrote that he learned that shortly before the shooting, Mr. Halls had picked the gun up from a gray cart that had been set up by Ms. Gutierrez-Reed and had taken it onto the set, where he handed it to Mr. Baldwin and yelled “cold gun.”

Ms. Torraco disputed that chain of events in the Fox interview, saying, “This idea that my client grabbed the gun off of a prop cart and handed it to Mr. Baldwin absolutely did not happen.” Ms. Torraco said she has heard differing accounts from crew members on set.

She did not directly give her client’s account. “My client went through something that was such a freak accident that he’s in shock,” Ms. Torraco said. “He’s having a hard time sorting out what happened.”

Mr. Halls has not responded to several requests for comment; Ms. Torraco’s office declined to comment last week and has not responded to several requests for comment this week.

Mr. Halls has been the subject of complaints on previous film productions. In 2019, Mr. Halls was fired from a movie, “Freedom’s Path,” after a gun discharged unexpectedly on set, causing a minor injury to a crew member, its production company said. Ms. Torraco did not respond to a question in the Fox interview about the previous complaints.

No criminal charges have been announced in the case, but the district attorney overseeing it, Mary Carmack-Altwies, has said that her office has not ruled them out. As details have emerged around a series of errors on set that preceded the fatal shooting, how a live round got into the revolver that Mr. Baldwin handled remains unclear.

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