An Italian prosecutor on Saturday demanded that two American teens from California, who admit to killing a cop in Rome in July 2019, spend the rest of their lives in jail. Finnegan Elder and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, who were 19 and 18 respectively at the time, are accused of killing Mario Cerciello Rega, a 35-year-old police officer who was working in plain clothes with his partner Andrea Varriale. The officers met the two Americans after the interloper—thought to be a police informant—called the police because the Americans stole his backpack in retaliation for being sold crushed aspirin instead of cocaine.
Both Americans have testified in court that the police did not identify themselves. Varriale, who is separately under investigation for lying about leaving his service weapon at the precinct, says they did identify themselves. Neither officer had a gun and Cerciello Rega’s badge was not found on his body, according to investigators. Elder admitted he stabbed Cerciello Rega a dozen times with his 7-inch military-style knife after the much larger man sat on him. Natale-Hjorth says he didn’t know Elder had a weapon on him though he did help hide it in the ceiling of their hotel room after the murder. Under Italian law, people present at a murder can be charged with homicide. Elder testified that he would have never thought that a drug pusher would call police to intervene, and instead thought the officers were thugs trying to kill them. He insists he acted in self defense. A verdict in the trial is expected in April.