Gunshots on pricey island land man in Keys jail

November 2, 2013 

The caretaker of a renowned private island getaway fired an assault rifle repeatedly Oct. 6 to warn nearby boaters he considered too noisy, an arrest warrant says.

Michael F. Vargason, 55, was arrested by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers Wednesday on a charge of improper display of firearms, a first-degree misdemeanor.

No one was injured in the afternoon shooting at Ballast Key, a 24-acre private island lying 10 miles west of Key West, the FWC reported.

A witness told investigators that Vargason threatened to "kill every one of you" if they came ashore on the island that has hosted movie stars, authors, prime ministers and the very rich.

The island and its eight-bedroom house were listed for sale earlier this year at $15.8 million.

FWC Officer Jimmy Johnson said an off-duty U.S. Coast Guard chief anchored at nearby Woman Key told him Vargason fired several shots from an M-16 rifle into the sand and yelled about the music from another boat's radio. Several more shots followed, about a dozen in total.

Witness statements later were received from the captain and passengers aboard the boat that drew Vargason's wrath.

FWC officers took an M-16 rifle, a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, a shotgun and rifle into custody. Vargason posted $5,000 bond and was released following his Wednesday arrest.

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