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Teen claims he killed in self-defense


Two teenage U.S. tourists were arrested in Rome for the stabbing death of an Italian police officer that has sparked outrage in the country.

One of two American teenagers arrested in Rome for the murder of an Italian police officer said he knifed the plainclothes officer because he was afraid he was being strangled, according to an Italian judge.

Judge Chiara Gallo wrote in a court order upholding the jailing of the two teens that Finnegan Lee Elder told authorities he stabbed Carabinieri officer Mario Cerciello Rega after feeling pressure on his neck. The judge said, however, that he did not have any marks on his neck resulting from strangulation. 

Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, and Elder, 19 –  both from San Francisco and visiting Italy as tourists – were arrested Saturday at an upscale hotel in Rome in Friday’s stabbing death of Cerciello Rega, who had just returned from his honeymoon days earlier. Elder was accused of stabbing Cerciello Rega, who approached the teens with another officer after a drug deal gone wrong.

The Carabinieri police force, in a statement, said the two confessed after being interrogated and facing “overwhelming evidence.” 

On Sunday, Italian newspapers published a photo of Natale-Hjorth with a blindfold over his eyes and in handcuffs before his interrogation. Blindfolding a suspect is “illegal. It’s not allowed,” Provincial Cmdr. Francesco Gargaro said. The officer who put the blindfold on Natale-Hjorth did so to prevent him from seeing documents related to the investigation, the commander said. 

Some Italians worried about the photo’s potential to shift the case in favor of the defense, The Associated Press reported.

But Gallo in her order concluded the two showed “a total absence of self-control” and were highly dangerous. 

Cerciello Rega died in the hospital. On Monday, his funeral was held in the same church in Somma Vesuviana where he was married six weeks ago. Italy’s military chaplain, Archbishop Santo Marciano, said Cerciello Rega lived and died a hero and protector. In his spare time, he gave out hot meals to the homeless in Rome. 

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