The actor Alec Baldwin and the armorer on the film “Rust” were charged on Tuesday with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of the movie’s cinematographer, according to court papers filed in the First Judicial District Court in New Mexico, which asserted that they had failed to follow standard film safety protocols on set.
“This reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol directly caused the fatal shooting,” Robert Shilling, a special investigator for the district attorney’s office, wrote in a statement of probable cause.
The prosecutors in the case announced this month that Mr. Baldwin would face criminal charges in the death of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, prompting a debate about the level of responsibility actors should have regarding gun safety on film sets.
Mary Carmack-Altwies, the Santa Fe County district attorney, said that as an actor and a producer on the film, Mr. Baldwin had a responsibility to either check the gun he was given to prepare for a scene or ensure that someone else had. Mr. Baldwin has said he was told the gun was “cold,” meaning it did not contain live ammunition.
A lawyer for Mr. Baldwin, Luke Nikas, said when the announcement was made that the decision to charge his client “distorts Halyna Hutchins’s tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice,” asserting that they would fight the charges and win. A lawyer for the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, said his client would also be exonerated.
Mr. Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez-Reed each face two charges of involuntary manslaughter. If the case goes to trial and jurors decide to convict either of the defendants, they will decide which charge applies. The lesser charge carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months, while the more serious charge includes a mandatory five-year prison sentence because of what the prosecutors called a “firearm enhancement.”
The fatal shooting of Ms. Hutchins on Oct. 21, 2021, occurred when the crew was setting up a tight shot of Mr. Baldwin drawing an old-fashioned revolver from his holster ahead of a gunfight. He has said that Ms. Hutchins, who was standing next to the camera, was directing the position of the gun.
The actor has denied pulling the trigger, saying he had pulled back the hammer and released it before the gun discharged. Ms. Carmack-Altwies said a forensic examination of the gun by the F.B.I. indicated that Mr. Baldwin had pulled the trigger.
Mr. Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez-Reed will not be arrested, prosecutors said, unless they do not cooperate with their scheduled court hearings.
In the months since Ms. Hutchins’s death, there has been a trickle of information about what the people at the center of the shooting told investigators about the day’s events — parts of which have contradicted each other.
There have been various accounts of who handed the gun to Mr. Baldwin on set that day.
Mr. Baldwin initially told investigators from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed handed him the gun before it discharged. In later phone conversations with a detective, he said that Dave Halls, the first assistant director on “Rust,” was the one to hand it off after declaring that the gun was “cold,” an industry term implying that the firearm does not have live rounds and is safe to use. Mr. Halls agreed to a plea deal on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Mr. Halls told the state’s Occupational Health & Safety Review Commission last month that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed was the one to hand the gun to the actor.
But Ms. Gutierrez-Reed told investigators that before it discharged that day, she had handed it to Mr. Halls before leaving the set because of coronavirus restrictions.
A judge in Santa Fe will determine whether there is probable cause to proceed with the criminal charges against Mr. Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez-Reed in what is called a preliminary hearing.
Before the pandemic, a grand jury could have been impaneled to determine whether the charges would move forward. The court stopped using grand juries entirely because of Covid restrictions; in April, the State Supreme Court allowed their use in some cases, but not for this type of charge.
Stephen D. Aarons, a veteran defense lawyer in Santa Fe, said the preliminary hearing system could be preferable to defendants because it allowed their lawyers to introduce and question witnesses, which they could not do in front of a grand jury.