UPDATED 8:37 AM PT – Thursday, May 6, 2021
A jury in Rome convicted two young American men in connection to the 2019 slaying of a police officer in a drug sting gone wrong. On Wednesday, Finnegan Lee Elder was found guilty of stabbing Mario Rega 11 times with a knife and his friend Gabriel Natale-Hjorth was also found guilty of murder for helping Elder hide the knife.
BREAKING: two American nationals Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20 have been given life sentence for the killing of Vice Bridgadier Mario Cerciello Rega on a street near their hotel in Rome back in July 2019 #CercielloRega
— Giorgia Orlandi (@giorgiaorlandi_) May 5, 2021
Elder claimed self defense. He said the officer and his partner, who were in plain clothes, rushed him and he didn’t have time to think. The officers had been looking into a reported extortion attempt allegedly organized by the Americans when the stabbing occurred.
“I panicked and believed he wanted to kill me,” Elder explained to the court. “As soon as I felt his hands squeezing my neck…I instinctively pulled out my knife and hit him a few times in an effort to get him off me.”
The jury sentenced Elder, 21, and Natale-Hjorth, 20, to life in prison.