Two American teenagers were detained in Rome on Saturday as Italian officials investigate their roles in the stabbing of a police officer near their hotel following a drug deal that went awry.
RAI, an Italian state news outlet, showed a detention order on air identifying the two Americans as Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, 18, and Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, from San Francisco.
Cerciello Rega Mario, the 35-year-old deputy police sergeant who died, got married a little more than a month ago.
The Carabinieri, one of Italy’s major national police forces, said in a press release that the teens took the bag of a drug dealer, or possibly someone involved with the dealer, after a transaction went wrong.
The teens, the police said, “threatened to not give it back to him without payment of 100 euros and a gram of cocaine.”
The person whose bag was taken reported it to the Carabinieri. Plainclothes police went to the area where the teens and the bag owner were supposed to meet and swap the bag for the ransom, police said.
But, police said, the teens engaged the police. “Even though the officers identified themselves as being Carabinieri, didn’t hesitate to engage in a struggle, culminating in the mortal wounding,” the statement said. The officer was stabbed eight times, the state police said. He died in a hospital.
Attorney Francesco Codini, said Elder, his client, exercised his right not to answer questions during a jail hearing on Saturday. Both teens are currently detained.
Codini he wouldn’t talk out of “respect for the family” of the officer. He said his client was “worn-out.” Hjorth’s lawyer didn’t respond to journalists outside the jail, the AP reporter.
The AP also reported, citing an anonymous Italian investigator, that the teens took the bag from the drug dealer after they got something that was not cocaine in the transaction.
A woman leaves flowers in front of the Carabinieri station where Mario Cerciello Rega was based
The pair allegedly fled to their hotel room. In a search, Italian authorities said they found a long knife hidden above the ceiling panels of the room and the clothes that they’d worn during the attack. The detention order also accuses the two teenagers of beating Mario’s partner, according to the AP.
The Carabinieri said they used video surveillance and witness interviews to identify the teens and and find them in the hotel. They added the Americans were preparing to leave Italy.
Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini tweeted on Friday that he hoped Mario’s murderers served life in prison and tweeted his condolences for the officer.
“Today is a day of mourning for anyone wearing a uniform,” the state police said on Facebook.
Ryan C. Brooks is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ryan C. Brooks at [email protected].
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