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'Rust' prop master Sarah Zachry ‘most likely to serve only as a witness’ in on-set tragedy: expert

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After days of investigation, a new name has bubbled to the surface in the Alec Baldwin-“Rust” accidental movie set shooting case: Sarah Zachry.

Zachry is credited as the film’s property – or prop – master. It was revealed Wednesday that Zachry was one of four people to handle a gun on the set of “Rust” Oct. 21 that was discharged by actor Baldwin – who authorities said believed the gun was “cold” or unloaded during a rehearsal.

A projectile from the weapon struck and ultimately killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and also wounded director Joel Souza. He has since been released from a hospital.

At one point on the day of the shooting, per armorer Hannah Gutierrez’s statement shared in an affidavit, Zachry removed the gun from a safe in a prop truck and brought it to Gutierrez. Assistant director Dave Halls later handed Baldwin the gun, stating there was no ammunition inside it.

Now that the prop master’s name is floating around, questions swirl about whether she could be liable for anything, but legal experts say her involvement “seems small at this time” and she’ll likely “serve only as a witness.”

A firearm was accidentally discharged on the set of the movie ‘Rust.’ Prop master Sarah Zachry was one of four people known to have handled the gun on the day of the shooting.
(Associated Press)

“At this point, it is difficult to determine what [Zachry’s] role was relating to weapons safety on this set,” Rachel Fiset, managing partner of Los Angeles-based Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman, told Fox News. “If facts arise that place her in control of safety protocols as it relates to the guns on the set, she may face some sort of liability.”

Fiset said that Zachry handling the firearm “will likely be one more point investigators look at when examining the overall safety measures taken on set.”

In the days since the shooting, reports have surfaced that crew members had complaints about working conditions on the set, including concerns about gun safety.

“At this point, any type of criminal negligence will be fully examined as it relates to all involved, however, as it appears now [Zachry] is most likely to serve only as a witness of this horrific incident and not face charges,” said Fiset, later adding that though Zachry’s involvement seems small at this time, “she should be well prepared to be involved with this situation for the long haul.”

Director of photography Halyna Hutchins was killed in the incident while director Joel Souza was injured. He has since left a hospital.
(Getty Images)

If liability is pinned onto Zachry, it “may come from not having the right gun or not testing it earlier,” depending on the exact duties of the prop master.

“If she has responsibility for the safety of the weapon, then her liability is pretty clearly delineated and spelled out,” Stoltmann explained. “At this point, it’s just not clear what her responsibilities were.”

Alec Baldwin discharged a firearm, reportedly after he was told by assistant director Dave Halls that there was no ammunition loaded. Halls also was reportedly unaware there was ammunition loaded.
(Getty Images)

When Fox News spoke to a Hollywood prop master who wished to remain anonymous, that person said armorers and assistant directors are responsible for inspecting firearms before they are used for a scene.

“However, the prosecutor has a tall task to convict any of the four in criminal court,” San Diego criminal defense lawyer David P. Shapiro said, referring to Zachry, Baldwin, Halls and Gutierrez.

“Both the lead prosecutor and [Santa Fe County] Sheriff [Adan] Mendoza repeatedly used the word ‘some complacency’ during Wednesday’s press conference. ‘Some complacency,’ if that is their position at the conclusion of the investigation, should not be sufficient to meet the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard.”

Zachry recently handled props on another film shot in New Mexico, “Dead for a Dollar.”

“Sarah was a member of our props department and worked on our film for approximately five to six days,” Carolyn McMaster with Chaos A Film Company told Fox News in a statement.

“She performed all of her assigned tasks in a professional manner and followed all safety protocols.”

 Zachry could not be immediately reached for comment.

Fox News’ Lauryn Overhultz contributed to this report

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