Alec Baldwin, Armorer Charged For ‘Rust’ Death; Why Didn’t The Same Happen For Brandon Lee’s Shooting?

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Over a year after the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the Rust movie set, the District Attorney of New Mexico has confirmed that producer Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will face criminal charges in connection to the case.

On Thursday, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced that Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the events that took place on October 21, 2021.

The DA also confirmed that assistant director David Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, the terms of which include “a suspended sentence and six months of probation.” At this time, no charges will be filed specifically holding anyone accountable for the non-fatal shooting of Rust director Joel Souza.

“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the Rust film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”

This revelation is the latest development in a year-long saga filled with lawsuits and public outrage over Hutchins’ death. It’s been a legal circus previously unmatched in the film world. However, that isn’t to say similar accidents haven’t occurred. In fact, the Rust shooting has drawn plenty of comparisons to the 1993 death of Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow.

Were Charges Filed In Brandon Lee’s Case?

As Carmack-Altwies’ words echo across the media, declaring that “everyone deserves justice,” we’re left wondering who was held accountable for Lee’s death? In the early ’90s, Brandon Lee’s star was rising. As the only son of kung-fu film phenom Bruce Lee, the industry had high hopes for the young actor. That was until 1993 when the 28-year-old actor died in a tragic on-set accident. While filming a scene involving a firearm, Lee was struck by a projectile, sustaining fatal injuries.

According to a 1993 lawsuit obtained by the LA Times, when crew members responsible for handling the prop gun ran out of dummy bullets, they fashioned their own out of live ammunition instead of waiting to buy them from a legitimate source.

These crew members apparently didn’t have the “proper training, proper equipment, and the required federal firearms license” to tamper with the firearm. Because of the shoddy operation, a bullet tip became lodged in the handgun’s barrel during test-firing. It was this debris that struck Lee at a distance of less than 20 feet.

Just like in the Rust shooting, the prop gun was not properly assessed before filming. However, unlike with the Rust shooting, no one ever faced criminal charges for Lee’s death.

Michael Massee Was Haunted By The Accident

There are certainly reasons for this. The first is that Alec Baldwin is a far less sympathetic figure than Michael Massee, the actor who pulled the trigger on the set of The Crow. With the advent of social media, it was easy for the public to channel its anger towards Baldwin. Additionally, as a producer, Baldwin arguably had a greater duty to maintain the actors’ safety on the film set than Massee did.

Furthermore, per an LA Times article from 1993, the actors had safely rehearsed the scene multiple times before the accident took place. As far as we know, the accident that resulted in Lee’s death was the only one of its kind on the set of The Crow. However, in the case of Rust, reports of misfires and unsafe working conditions had plagued the production in the days leading up to Hutchins’ death (per USA Today).

While he didn’t face criminal charges, Massee told Extra in 2005 that he was haunted by the accident. The actor didn’t work for a year, and it completely changed his perspective around stunt-work. “It wasn’t supposed to happen for a myriad of reasons,” Massee explained. “I don’t think you ever get over something like that.”

Per the LA Times, Lee’s mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers alleged negligence that led to her son’s death. She subsequently settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

It truly is a sign of changing times that the criminal justice system has had such vastly different reactions to these tragic accidents. Hopefully, with the filing of these charges, productions will begin to routinely take the steps to keep from repeating these tragic accidents.

According to the DA of New Mexico, her office will file charges of involuntary manslaughter before the end of the month. The announcement also notes that a preliminary hearing will likely be scheduled within 60 days after the charges are filed.

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