MAN IN TRACTOR RAMPAGE INTENDED TO KILL TWO PEOPLE ON COLLEGE CAMPUS, KEY WEST POLICE SAY

two images of a building and a police car

The 22-year-old Key West man who went on a rampage behind the wheel of a tractor at the College of the Florida Keys drove to the Stock Island campus intending to kill two people on May 4, police said Thursday.

Ethan Robert Layne, 22, who was arrested at the scene, is in jail without bond on charges of attempted murder of a police officer, two counts of premeditated attempted murder, aggravated assault, grand theft of a vehicle, burglary, and criminal mischief.

Eight additional charges are pending, police spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.

Police haven’t identified the people they say Layne intended to murder, nor did they say how he knew his would-be victims.

Ethan Robert Layne, 22, is charged with attempted murder of a police officer and two additional counts of attempted murder after police said he stole a tractor and went on a rampage at the College of the Florida Keys on May 4, 2024.

No injuries were reported in the rampage, which ended after a police officer fired several shots at Layne while he was in the tractor.

But Layne had planned to kill two individuals during the bizarre incident, which seemed inexplicable on a Saturday evening, the day after CFK’s graduation ceremony, Crean said in a statement.

“He drove the tractor through the lobby of the Lagoon Landing dormitory, then used the bucket attachment of the tractor to destroy the overhead plumbing under the building,” Crean said.

At about 6 p.m. May 4, Layne, a groundskeeper at the Key West Golf Course on Stock Island, stole the tractor from the golf course and drove to the college, which is less than a mile away.

After smashing into the dorm, Layne then rammed a truck in the parking lot, overturning it. Then he struck another vehicle with a man and his 4-year-old daughter inside.

“The victim saw the tractor veer toward his car, raise its front end and then it smashed down on his car,” Crean said. “The tractor backed away momentarily and the victim was able to escape the car with his child.”

Layne aimed the tractor at a third vehicle, but the driver was able to get away. He then drove off campus and onto College Road.

Calls were flooding into the police dispatch center and multiple Key West police officers responded.

The first officer on scene encountered the tractor on College Road in front of the city’s transit center.

Layne aimed the tractor directly at the police vehicle and rammed it, lowering the bucket into the windshield several times.

In response, the officer fired several rounds at his attacker.

Shortly after, Layne was taken into custody.

Early estimates put damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Layne has a hearing at the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West at 1:30 p.m. May 17.

It’s unclear whether Layne has legal representation. 

These images from a FaceTime call obtained by Keys Weekly show the damage left by a man driving a tractor on the campus of the College of the Florida Keys on May 4, 2024. Contributed

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, which is a common practice when an officer fires a weapon.

Photos show the tractor rampage left plenty of damage on campus, where there weren’t many students at the time, a college official said. 

The dorm at the rear of the campus had a smashed entrance with a wall knocked down.

A vehicle was on its side in the parking lot and another car was left with a crushed side. 

The college opened as usual on the Monday after the tractor incident. A CFK spokeswoman didn’t return a message for comment. 

Layne is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. His only prior criminal record in Monroe County is a speeding ticket from 2021.

On his Facebook profile, Layne states that he studied at CFK and has worked as a groundskeeper at the golf club since May 2022.

In April, he posted on a locals page looking for musicians to help him start a band. He said he’s a rock drummer and wants to eventually perform at Mallory Square or open mics, such as the one at General Horseplay.

Gwen Filosa
Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.