Florida Keys

Man accused of shooting at Coast Guard crew acquitted by Miami jury


A federal jury has found a man accused of firing at a U.S. Coast Guard crew not guilty of both weapons charges handed down in an indictment by a grand jury in September.

Daniel Michael Szabo, 41, was facing a possible life prison sentence for charges of trying to kill a Coast Guard officer during a boarding and using a firearm while committing a violent crime.

But jurors on April 6 only found Szabo guilty of failing to stop his vessel when ordered to do so by the Coast Guard.

According to court papers, on Aug. 21, a Coast Guard boat patrol crew encountered Szabo around 9:45 p.m. He was in a dinghy floating in Key Largo Sound and the crew received reports he had a handgun and was threatening suicide.

Szabo saw the Coast Guard boat and fled in his dinghy. As the Coast Guard boat chased him, Szabo fired six shots at the pursuing vessel, according to court papers.

Szabo crashed his dinghy into the mangroves. When the Coast Guard crew caught up with him, he had a lit cigarette and a can of ether. He told the Coast Guard crewmen he would blow himself up if they got too close.

After about 30 minutes, Szabo took off again in his dinghy, prompting the Coast Guard boat to go after him. Szabo rammed the Coast Guard craft several times with the dinghy before the crew eventually fired pepper spray into his vessel and subdued him.

The encounter with the Coast Guard was after Szabo got into an argument with a neighbor, leaving a message on the man’s voice mail that they would settle the dispute and there “would be a body count,” according to court documents.

Szabo forced his way into the neighbor’s house, but the man fled, hid in the bushes and called 911.

That man, not identified in the court papers, then took refuge in another neighbor’s home. That neighbor looked outside and saw Szabo, armed with a handgun, board his dinghy.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez is scheduled to sentence Szabo on the failing to stop his vessel charge on June 6 in Miami.