American teenager said he thought the Italian agent would strangle him

One of the American teenagers accused of killing an Italian police officer claims that he stabbed him eight times with a seven-inch self-defense knife because he thought the officer would strangle him.

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Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, and Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, former high school classmates from Mill Valley, California, were arrested in connection with the death of Deputy Brigadier General Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, on Friday in Rome.

According to the police, they struck him with a seven-inch knife when he interrupted a failed drug deal.

The two boys tried to arrange the score with a local drug dealer who had sold them crushed aspirin instead of cocaine.

Earlier in the evening they were sent by an unnamed man to the dealer. When they realized that they had sold aspirin instead of cocaine, they stole the man's bag for ransom and demanded that he buy them a gram of cocaine.

Instead, the man called police and Rega was one of the two responding officers.

Finnegan Lee Elder

Mario Cerciello Rega
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Mario Cerciello Rega

Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, (left) told the police that he had stabbed Italian police officer Mario Cerciello Rega (right) because he thought the officer would strangle him on Friday while interrupting a failed drug deal.

When he approached the American teenagers with his partner, they did not know he was a cop and strike him. They also attacked his partner, but he was not seriously injured.

Elder was arrested together with his friend, Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, (pictured on a leaked photo)

Elder was arrested together with his friend, Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, (pictured on a leaked photo)

Elder was arrested together with his friend, Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, (pictured on a leaked photo)

Initially, the two teenagers tried to blame each other for stabbing, but according to a court order written on Saturday, Elder confessed that he had executed the murder. He said it was because he thought he would be strangled and that & # 39; busy & # 39; stood on his neck.

Judge Chiara Gallo rejected the claim and said there was no evidence that the police officer had touched the boy's neck.

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She said the two teenagers & # 39; total lack of self-control & # 39; and were not allowed to receive bail.

Natale-Hjorth is accused of repeatedly punching Rega's partner while stabbing happened.

The two Americans were then caught on CCTV fleeing the crime scene before being traced to a nearby hotel where they were arrested.

While searching their hotel room, the police said investigators found a long knife hidden in the lowered ceiling of the room.

The police also found that clothing was worn during the attack.

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Officers said that Elder was identified as the groomsman after he said he recognized the murder weapon and that it belonged to him.

Photos by Cerciello Rega wearing his uniform at his wedding and showing off his wedding ring as he sat next to his shining bride dominated the front pages of many Italian newspapers

Photos by Cerciello Rega wearing his uniform at his wedding and showing off his wedding ring as he sat next to his shining bride dominated the front pages of many Italian newspapers

Photos by Cerciello Rega wearing his uniform at his wedding and showing off his wedding ring as he sat next to his shining bride dominated the front pages of many Italian newspapers

Hundreds of people turned out to honor Cerciello Rega on Sunday outside a chapel in Rome

Rega & # 39; s wife Rosa Maria was comforted by a bishop when she followed the coffin after the funeral in the Santa Croce church in Somma Vesuviana
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Rega & # 39; s wife Rosa Maria was comforted by a bishop when she followed the coffin after the funeral in the Santa Croce church in Somma Vesuviana

Rega & # 39; s wife Rosa Maria was comforted by a bishop when she followed the coffin after the funeral in the Santa Croce church in Somma Vesuviana

The new wife of the killed officer, Rosa Maria, wept and laid her hands on his coffin when it was carried into the church on Sunday

Rega & # 39; s coffin was seen by a huge crowd of mourners carried in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana, near Naples, southern Italy, on Monday

Rega & # 39; s coffin was seen by a huge crowd of mourners carried in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana, near Naples, southern Italy, on Monday

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Rega & # 39; s coffin was seen by a huge crowd of mourners carried in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana, near Naples, southern Italy, on Monday

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte comforts Rosa Maria in the chapel where Cerciello Rega was placed

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte comforts Rosa Maria in the chapel where Cerciello Rega was placed

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte comforts Rosa Maria in the chapel where Cerciello Rega was placed

The new wife of the killed officer, Rosa Maria, wept and laid her hands on his coffin when it was carried into the church on Sunday

The new wife of the killed officer, Rosa Maria, wept and laid her hands on his coffin when it was carried into the church on Sunday

The new wife of the killed officer, Rosa Maria, wept and laid her hands on his coffin when it was carried into the church on Sunday

The Carabinieri statement said that during their interrogation and faced with & # 39; hard evidence & # 39 ;, & # 39;

Both suspects may be confronted with murder and are also being investigated for attempted extortion.

Lawyer Francesco Codini said his client Elder & # 39; worn & # 39; was after he exercised his right not to answer questions during a hearing.

Natale-Hjorth's lawyer did not speak to reporters who waited outside prison after the hearing.

The authorities swore that justice would be done.

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& # 39; Hoping that our poor Carabiniere's murderer never comes out of jail, I remind do-gooders that in the United States, who is risking the death penalty, & # 39; tweet Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, who is also responsible for the state police, another national Italian police. & # 39; I am not saying that we will comment on that, but yes on a life in prison (in labor, of course). & # 39;

On Sunday a photo of Natale-Hjorth arose with a scarf in front of his eyes in a police station.

It has triggered an international debate about whether it is being treated correctly.

Provincial Cmdr Francesco Gargaro said the suspect & # 39; for a few minutes, four or five & # 39; was blindfolded on Friday just before he was questioned about the fatal stabbing.

Italian police say they have now launched an investigation into the incident with a spokesperson confirming: & # 39; We are dissociating ourselves with this kind of behavior and investigating who was responsible. & # 39;

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Blinding a suspect & # 39; is illegal. It is not allowed, & Gargaro said. The officer who put on the blindfold committed a & # 39; error & # 39; but did this to prevent Natale-Hjorth from seeing documents related to the investigation, the commander said.

The 18-year-old was questioned by police and prosecutors without a lawyer since he was not formally detained as a suspect and Italian law does not allow the presence of a lawyer at that stage, the commander said.

The officer was transferred to another unit, Gargaro said. The Carabinieri were also investigating who took the photo and how it was leaked. Lawyers for the two Americans were not immediately available for comment.

The assassination of Cerebiello Rega made international headlines and sent shock waves all the way to Mill & # 39; s birthplace Mill Valley, a rich suburb 10 miles north of San Francisco en route to the towering sequoia & # 39; s in Muir Woods National Par.

The city with 14,000 inhabitants is a desirable destination for families who are attracted to the safe, green neighborhoods and renowned public schools.

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The two boys graduated from Tamalpais High School in 2018 and were reportedly enrolled at Santa Barbara City College.

Investigators determined that Elder (above) was responsible after recognizing the murder weapon as his own

Investigators determined that Elder (above) was responsible after recognizing the murder weapon as his own

While Elder Cerciello Rega was stabbing, Natale-Hjorth (above) is said to have repeatedly beaten the officer's partner

While Elder Cerciello Rega was stabbing, Natale-Hjorth (above) is said to have repeatedly beaten the officer's partner

The two friends were on holiday together without their family when the killing took place. It is now expected that both will be accused of murder

Natale-Hjorth invited an elder to Italy, where he has family and comes to visit every summer.

Elder & # 39; s family said they were & # 39; shocked and appalled & # 39; are on the news of his arrest, while many of the teen's neighbors say they are not shocked. Two told KPIX5 how elder had been ill for their home after getting drunk several times.

Graduate Matt Kearney told ABC7 from Natale-Hjorth: & # 39; I always saw him as a little vague, but nothing bad. & # 39;

Another classmate, who did not want to be mentioned, said: & # 39; If Gabe uses drugs, he is crazy. He has a lot of anger.

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& # 39; He is known here as a drug dealer. I feel like he thinks he can get away with anything. He got away with so many problems in Marin. & # 39;

Former classmate Tommy Flynn said about Natale-Hjorth: & I have always known that he is a bad guy. He would come up with stories about activities that you would not want your children to participate in. He is a little known in the city as a delinquent character. & # 39;

But Elder Gloria Keeley said: & I have known Finn from birth and am in shock. He is one of the nicest neighbors. My vision of Finn, I don't see him doing that. & # 39;

& # 39; We are shocked and appalled about the reported events, but we have very little independent information about these events & # 39 ;, said the elder's family in a statement. & # 39; We have not had any communication with our son. & # 39;

The family expressed its condolences to the policeman's family and & # 39; all affected by this tragedy & # 39 ;.

In a house in the name of Natale-Hjorth, a young man who opened the door screamed & # 39; No! & # 39; when an Associated Press reporter asked her to speak.

Hundreds of people appeared to honor Cerciello Rega when his body was taken to a chapel in central Rome to be able to lie on Sunday.

The new wife of the killed officer, Rosa Maria, wept and laid her hands on his coffin while it was being carried inside.

A funeral will take place on Monday in the same chapel where she married Cerciello Rega on 19 June in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana.

Forty-three days later, Rosa Maria returned to the church as a widow.

Mayor Salvatore Di Sarno of Somma Vesuviana proclaimed a & # 39; day of mourning & # 39; for the city near Naples.

Cerciello Rega had just returned to service after his honeymoon in Madagascar when he was stabbed.

Photos of the officer wearing his uniform for his wedding and showing off his wedding ring as he sat next to his shining bride dominated the front pages of many Italian newspapers on Saturday.

Flowers, mementos and letters of condolence have gathered at an improvised monument outside the Carabinieri headquarters. Station commander Sandro Ottaviani told reporters that Cerciello Rega was a beloved member of the armed forces who always thought of his neighbors, both during the service and when he was not wearing the uniform.

& # 39; He used to make pilgrimages to Lourdes and Loreto to help the suffering people every week, & # 39; said Ottaviani, referring to two major Catholic places of pilgrimage. & # 39; Without telling anyone, he volunteered. Not only a brave Carabinieri dies, but a great man. & # 39;

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called his death a & # 39; deep wound to the state & # 39; and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini praised the officer as a & # 39; hero & # 39 ;.

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