The 19-year-old primary suspect in the Friday killing of 35-year-old Italian police officer Mario Cerciello Rega in Rome has told a judge in the case that he acted in self-defense.
Suspect Finnegan Lee Elder, who has reportedly confessed to the stabbing, says that he felt pressure on his neck in the scuffle with the plainclothes officers, and he feared he was going to be strangled. The Associated Press reports that Judge Chiara Gallo explained the defense in a written order regarding the jailing of Elder and his 18-year-old friend Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, but expressed doubt about the story because Elder did not have visible signs of strangulation on his neck.
Judge Gallo further said the two teens had shown a "total absence of self-control," and were therefore dangerous.
As reported earlier, Elder and Natale-Hjorth were staying in Rome and attempting to procure cocaine from an alleged dealer, who they say cheated them and sold them some other substance. The pair responded by stealing a bag belonging to the man and ransoming it via his cellphone, which was in the bag. The alleged dealer called police, and two plainclothes officers, including Rega, went to a rendezvous point that had been arranged by the Americans. Rega was then stabbed 11 times in an ensuing scuffle.
The two friends are 2018 graduates from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. Elder was described by a neighbor who said she'd known him since he was born as "one of the nicest guys and neighbors I have ever met."
A high school friend, Matt Kearney, described Natale-Hjorth to ABC 7 as being "a bit sketchy, but nothing this bad."
Rega's funeral was held today in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana, in the same church where he was married six weeks earlier. In a eulogy, Archbishop Santo Marciano said Rega spent his off-duty hours "dishing out hot meals to the homeless in Rome's main station and accompan[ying] ailing faithful to religious shrines, including in Lourdes, France."