A Key Largo man accused of shooting at a U.S. Coast Guard crew is scheduled to stand trial in Key West federal court next month.
Daniel M. Szabo, 40, faces life in prison on a charge of knowingly using a firearm during a violent crime and another life sentence for interfering with a boarding "involving an attempt to kill." He also faces 20 years on a charge of forcible assault with a deadly weapon on officers of the United States, as well as five years for "failure to heave to a vessel."
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 [a] 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.
The U.S. Coast Guard crew, based at Station Islamorada, was given a commendation for courage under fire.
Szabo's bond was set at $100,000. He was released from federal lockup on Dec. 3. His trial is scheduled to begin Monday, Jan. 11 before Judge Jose E. Martinez at the Key West federal courthouse at 301 Simonton Street.