While vacationing in Rome, two 19-year-old Americans were arrested for the murder of an Italian police officer. Suspects Christian Gabriel Natale Hjorth and Lee Elder Finnegan, both from San Francisco, were arrested on Friday night for aggravated murder and attempted extortion. They are charged with the murder of Italian police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, who was stabbed eight times at 2:00 AM on Friday in Rome’s Prati neighborhood. He was declared dead just two hours later.
Hjorth and Finnegan were identified through witness testimonies and surveillance footage, and were arrested inside their hotel room. According to local police, they were in the midst of preparing to leave the country. “During the search of the hotel room,” police told CNN, “which was occupied by the two detainees, the murder weapon was found and seized, a knife of considerable size, cleverly hidden behind a ceiling panel, as well as the clothes worn during the crime. The two, once at the station, were interrogated by the Carabinieri, under the direction of the magistrates of the Public Prosecutor of Rome, in the face of overwhelming evidence, they confessed to the charge.”
Allegedly, the incident began when the two suspects stole a backpack belonging to an Italian citizen. According to police, the suspects later answered the owner’s cellphone, which they had also stolen, and told him that “they would not return the backpack without 100 euros and 1 gram of cocaine.” The victim of the theft contacted the police, who posed as civilians to collect the backpack. When they revealed themselves to be officers, however, one of the men brandished a knife and stabbed the officer eight times before the two fled the scene. The other officer was not seriously injured in the attack.
It is important to note that only one of the men is accused of actually stabbing the officer, though both have admitted to participating in the incident.
On Saturday, the US State Department addressed the arrests with a brief statement, “We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services in cases where US citizens are detained or arrested abroad.”
The investigation is ongoing, and at least one of the suspects is said to be maintaining their right to remain silent.