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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Two American students await fate from Rome Court accused of killing a police officer 

Two American students are being accused of killing an Italian police officer, and this week will be the decision of their fate by a Rome court. 

Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 20, and Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, from California went on a holiday in Rome, when the police officer Mario Cericello Rega was fatally stabbed in Rome, on July 26, 2019.

The jury will begin deliberating the case on Wednesday and the verdict is expected to be on that day or Thursday. 

On 26 July 2019, while the police officers Cerciello Rega and Andrea Varriale, in plainclothes and without pistols, were investigating a bag snatch, allegedly devised by Elder and Natale-Hjorth in reprisal for a botched drug deal a few hours earlier, they confronted the Americans and Cerciello Rega got stabbed 11 times, and his colleague Andrea Varriale was injured. 

Elder, who traveled to Rome with an 18cm knife in his suitcase, and his friend Natale-Hjorth say that they mistook the officers for criminals out to get them. 

The Americans contacted a middleman to buy cocaine in Trastevere, and he took them to a drug dealer, who instead sold them aspirin for €80. In retaliation, they took the middleman’s bag with his phone inside, and run away but before they demanded cash and cocaine to return his bag. 

Later on, the middleman arranged a meeting with the pair in the Prati district, and at the same time, he contacted the police for theft, when two officers went to the site. 

The incident happened, and the next day the Americans were caught in their hotel with the knife that was used to stab the police.

Elder told the court that the police officers did not show the ID or any other object and that they attacked the Americans like they wanted to rob or hurt them, they thought the officers were drug dealers. He also mentioned that Cerciello Rega was scuffling on top of him and he was afraid that the officer was trying to kill him, so he stabbed him, and when the officer didn’t let him go, he stabbed again. 

Alleged accomplices can be charged with homicide, under the Italian law, even if prosecutors admit they had no material role in the murdering. The prosecutor, Maria Sabina Calabretta, in her final argument asked the court to convict both defendants with the harshest criminal penalty in Italy, with life imprisonment. 

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