Nolte: Veteran Prop Master Refused Job on Alec Baldwin Film Due to Safety Concerns

Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal/Mark Sagliocco; Sonia Recchia/Getty Images
Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal/Mark Sagliocco; Sonia Recchia/Getty Images

Veteran prop master Neal W. Zoromski says he turned down an offer to work on Alec Baldwin’s film Rust over safety concerns.

With credits going back to 1990, Zoromski told far-left NBC News, “I turned the job opportunity down on Rust because I felt it was completely unsafe.”

To save money, Zoromski said the film’s producers (Baldwin is a credited producer) took two separate jobs — prop master and armorer — and combined them into one job.

“I impressed upon them,” he said, “that there were great concerns about that, and they didn’t really respond to my concerns about that.”

In a separate interview with the far-left L.A. Times, he described Rust as “an accident waiting to happen.”

“You never have a prop assistant double as the armorer,” Zoromski said. “Those are two really big jobs.”

Walters, the production manager, sent Zoromski an email Sept. 24 that read: “We’d really like one of the assistants to be the armorer that can push up on the gunfights and heavy armor days,” according to a copy of the email shared with The Times. (Walters did not respond to requests for comment.)

Zoromski replied: “Unfortunately, I have to pass on this opportunity. I am grateful for your interest and wish nothing but the very best for you, your crew and the show.”

“After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email,” he added, “I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen.'”

A few days later, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez-Reed announced she’d landed the dual job as “property key assistant/armorer.”

What happened next can only be described as an avoidable tragedy.

According to reports and police documents, three firearms were left outside on a cart during the lunch hour. After everyone returned from lunch, the assistant director grabbed a gun off the cart, went inside the church set where Alec Baldwin was rehearsing, handed Baldwin a gun, and shouted “cold gun,” which means the gun will not fire (not even blanks) when the trigger is pulled.

Baldwin was rehearsing with the director of photography Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Souza. He pulled the gun, pointed it at Hutchinson (for some reason), and it went off. Hutchins, a 42-year-old wife and mother, was killed. Souza was injured after the bullet passed through Hutchins’ chest.

In the above two paragraphs, the violations of both firearm procedures and common sense are legion.

  • The firearms should have been secured during the lunch break.
  • The assistant director should not have done the armorer’s job of picking up the gun and handing it to the actor.
  • The assistant director obviously did not check the gun to be sure it was safe.
  • A rubber gun should have been used during rehearsal.
  • Whoever handed the gun to the actor should have shown the actor it was not loaded, and the barrel was clear.
  • While pointing at the ground, the gun should’ve been dry fired six times to prove it was empty.
  • As both producer and actor, Baldwin should’ve insisted on being shown the gun was empty.
  • Baldwin should have double-checked the gun himself.
  • Baldwin never-ever-ever should have pointed that gun at anyone, no matter how safe he believed it was.

We’re also being told the gun misfired (went off accidentally) on more than one occasion and that on the morning of the shooting numerous crew people walked off the set over, among other things, safety concerns.

This whole production sounds chaotic, slap-dash, and unbelievably dangerous.

Thank Heaven this incident falls under the jurisdiction of New Mexico authorities and not Los Angeles. The media are already circling to protect Baldwin, but nothing they say can change the fact he pointed a gun at someone and acted as a producer on an unsafe production.

Yes, this was an accident. Yes, I feel bad for everyone, including Baldwin. But negligence and recklessness are still negligence and recklessness. This is not a case where a ricochet killed a young woman. This is a case where corners were cut, red flags (like misfires) were ignored, and foolproof safety measures were violated.

This should never have happened, and there must be accountability.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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