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Weapons expert points to possible explanation for how live rounds got on ‘Rust’ set

A search warrant filed Tuesday for a New Mexico film prop firm indicates live ammunition on the deadly set of “Rust” might have originated with storied stuntman Thell Reed.

Reed is the father of “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who’s been under scrutiny for her role as caretaker of firearms on the set of the Hollywood production.

The filing indicates that Thell Reed, also an armorer, did not intentionally provide the live rounds, but that ammunition he brought to an earlier, separate production might have made its way to the set of “Rust.”

“Rust” director of photography Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed, and director Joel Souza, 48, was injured when producer and actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot them before an afternoon filming session.

Reed told authorities he had brought an “ammo can” of live rounds to another set, earlier in summer, at the request of Seth Kenney, a movie gun supplier who is affiliated with the New Mexico prop firm PDQ Arm & Prop LLC, the target of Tuesday’s search warrant.

Reed and Kenney were working together on that earlier production, according to the filing.

Reed told investigators Kenney had asked him to bring live ammunition for actor training with live rounds at a firing range, according to the affidavit for the warrant filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

Reed’s statement said Kenney already had live ammo but thought he might run out, according to the filing. Reed said he brought a can filled with as many as 300 rounds, it stated.

He said rounds of ammunition, including .45 caliber, was left over following the production and that Kenney took it back to New Mexico, the filing states. When Reed repeatedly tried to get the can and ammo back from Kenney he was rebuffed and ultimately told to “write it off,” it said.

“Thell stated his ammunition may match the ammunition found on the set of ‘Rust,'” the affidavit states.

Reed and Kenney did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Investigators want to search the New Mexico business associated with Kenney, ostensibly to find that can or ammo, which Reed described as “not factory made,” according to the filing.

The filing states “Rust” prop master Sarah Zachry said the ammunition for that production was from multiple sources, including rounds Gutierrez Reed brought from a previous production and some provided by another person. It’s not clear how this narrative fits with the one about live rounds from a previous set.

According to Tuesday’s filing, Zachry told investigators she checked the box of ammunition on the prop cart after the shooting and compared it with the round she was handed — the suspected live round from the gun Baldwin fired.

Zachry said she found some cartridges in the box would rattle, which signified them being “dummy rounds,” however, others did not, which led her to believe some were live, according to the filing.

The shooting happened Oct. 21 after Baldwin was handed a gun that he was told was safe to use, investigators said in a previous affidavit. They said he was practicing with a handgun when it went off.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza has said the gun fired a live round, which killed Hutchins and wounded Souza.

Sheriff’s investigators recovered blanks, dummy rounds and what investigators suspected were live rounds from the set.

Jason Bowles, an attorney for Gutierrez Reed, called the search warrant “a huge step forward …  to unearth the full truth of who put the live rounds on the ‘Rust’ set.”

Robert Gorence, another attorney for Gutierrez Reed, suggested in early November that someone might have sabotaged the set.

Producers of “Rust” have said little. In October, they said in a letter to cast and crew: “As the investigation continues, we cannot respond to the comments that have been making their way into the media, on social media and elsewhere.”

Samantha Kubota contributed.

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