Court Date Set for Key Largo Man Accused of Shooting at Coast Guard

An Oct. 16 arraignment has been ordered for a Key Largo man charged with trying to shoot U.S. Coast Guard crewmen during an August boat chase in Largo Sound.

Daniel M. Szabo, 40, remains in custody at the federal Miami Detention Center where he was sent for a mental-health evaluation. The status of that evaluation, along with a formal arraignment on four felony charges, will be reviewed in the hearing before U.S. Magistrate Lurana Snow at the Key West federal courthouse.

If convicted, Szabo could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Two of the four felony counts -- trying to kill a Coast Guard officer during a boarding and using a firearm during a violent crime -- each carry the potential of a life sentence.

A third count, using a deadly weapon against a federal officer, has a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The case has been assigned to a prosecutor with the major-crimes division of the South Florida U.S. Attorney's Office. Szabo is being represented by a federal public defender.

Witnesses from the Jules Undersea Lodge marina called the Monroe County Sheriff's Office around 9 p.m. Aug. 21 to say Szabo, a liveaboard, was drunk, "waving a gun around and had held it to his own head before taking off in the dinghy," according to the Sheriff's Office.

A Coast Guard patrol boat tried to intercept Szabo's dinghy in Largo Sound, on the oceanside off mile marker 102.5. The chase reached speeds of 20 mph, a Coast Guard report says. Crewmen reported seeing "two bright white-and-orange flashes of light from the dinghy," and crewmen say they "heard sounds consistent with gunfire."

Szabo rammed his dinghy into the patrol boat and crashed into mangroves, according to the Coast Guard. He eventually was pepper-sprayed and taken into custody.

No weapon was found aboard Szabo's small boat but authorities believe a gun could have been thrown overboard during the pursuit.

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