The head of lighting on the film, Rust, has filed a lawsuit over Alec Baldwin’s fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, alleging negligence that caused him “severe emotional distress”.
Serge Svetnoy said that the bullet which killed his close friend narrowly missed him, and he held her head as she died on the set of the Western in New Mexico.
The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court names nearly two dozen defendants associated with the film including Baldwin, who was both star and a producer; David Halls, the assistant director who handed Baldwin the gun; and Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was in charge of weapons on the set.
It is the first known lawsuit of what could be many stemming from the October 21 shooting, which also injured Rust director Joel Souza.
“Simply put there was no reason for a live bullet to be placed in that .45 Colt revolver or to be present anywhere on the ‘Rust’ set, and the presence of a bullet in a revolver posed a lethal threat to everyone in its vicinity,” the lawsuit says.
The suit says Svetnoy was setting up lighting within 6 or 7ft of Baldwin.
“What happened next will haunt plaintiff forever,” the suit says. “He felt a strange and terrifying whoosh of what felt like pressurised air from his right. He felt what he believed was gunpowder and other residual materials directly strike the right side of his face.”
Then, with his glasses scratched and his hearing muffled, he knelt to help Hutchins, the suit said.
The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages to be determined later. It was filed in Los Angeles County because the plaintiff and most of the defendants are based there.
Gutierrez Reed’s lawyer Jason Bowles said in a statement on Wednesday that “we are convinced this was sabotage and Hannah is being framed. We believe that the scene was tampered with as well before the police arrived”.
Mr Bowles said his client has provided authorities with a full interview and continues to assist them.
“We are asking for a full and complete investigation of all of the facts, including the live rounds themselves, how they ended up in the ‘dummies’ box, and who put them in there,” the statement said.
Gutierrez Reed said last week that she had inspected the gun Baldwin shot but does not know how a live bullet ended up inside.
Halls, the assistant director, said last week that he hoped the tragedy prompted the film industry to “re-evaluate its values and practices” to ensure no one is harmed again, but did not provide details.
Authorities have said that Halls handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun”, indicating that the weapon was safe to use.
Baldwin said on video on October 30 that the shooting was a “one-in-a-trillion event” saying: “We were a very, very well-oiled crew shooting a film together and then this horrible event happened.”
The director Souza told detectives that Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he drew a revolver from his holster and pointed it toward the camera, which Hutchins and Souza were behind, according to court records in New Mexico.
Souza said the scene did not call for the use of live rounds, and Gutierrez Reed said real ammo should never have been present, according to court records.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said there was “some complacency” in how weapons were handled on the set. Authorities have said much investigation still needs to be done before getting to a point where criminal charges could be considered.