Two American teens confess to stabbing undercover Italian policeman after drug deal goes horribly wrong
One of the teens, identified as Lee Elder Finnegan, confessed to stabbing 35-year-old paramilitary policeman Mario Cerciello Rega to death after an apparent drug deal went wrong.
ROME, ITALY: Two teenagers from San Francisco on a "drug holiday" in Rome, accused of murdering an Italian policeman, have been arrested on charges of murder and attempted extortion in connection with the fatal stabbing of the cop on Friday morning.
One of the teens, identified as 19-year-old Lee Elder Finnegan, confessed to stabbing 35-year-old paramilitary policeman Mario Cerciello Rega to death after an apparent drug deal went wrong. Italian authorities, on Saturday, released a statement saying that a second California native, identified as 18-year-old Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, was also involved in the incident which resulted in Rega's demise.
Both the men were interrogated by Carabinieri official and "in the face of overwhelming evidence," they eventually confessed to the crimes. Finnegan reportedly told the officers: "It was me, but I didn't think he was a policeman. I was afraid of being cheated again."
The teens, during their confession, reportedly informed officials that they had been on the lookout to buy drugs in Rome’s Trastevere district at 2 am on Friday when they asked a local man named Sergio Brugiatelli about where they could find a dealer.
"The man pointed them to a supplier, who reportedly sold them crushed medicine instead of cocaine," a Carabinieri spokesman said. The teens reportedly said that they realized they had been defrauded when they attempted to snort the white powder but realized it was aspirin, according to the Daily Mail.
The duo was then captured on CCTV returning to the square, hoping to track down the dealer who sold them the faux cocaine. They failed to find the dealer, however, they found Brugiatelli instead and believed that he was an accomplice. They then stole his bag and returned to their hotel. When Brugiatelli rang his phone, which was still inside the bag, the two tourists demanded that he pay them 100 euros and a gram of cocaine in exchange for the phone.
Brugiatelli agreed. However, instead of meeting the teens himself, he called the police who sent two plain-clothes officers to quiz the tourists. The two officers approached the men and they had a brief exchange of words during which Finnegan pulled out a knife and stabbed Rega multiple times.
Authorities said that the two "did not hesitate to engage in a scuffle which culminated in the tragic deadly wounding of Mario Rega Cerciello."
Rega, who had just returned from his honeymoon, reportedly suffered eight stab wounds to his back and chest. He later succumbed to the injuries as one of the blows was to his heart.
"When we saw them we approached, we qualified and after a few moments a struggle broke out," said Rega's colleague Andrea Varriale to investigators. "After a while I heard Mario scream with multiple stabs," he continued. "I rushed to rescue him while they were running away. I immediately called for help and the operations center to ask for help and give a description of the two attackers."
Police officers eventually stormed the room of the two suspects who were "ready to leave" Italy and found the knife in the room and the clothes worn by the pair during the attack, which were hidden behind ceiling tiles in their room.
The young officer's killing sent shockwaves through Italy and prompted tributes from across the country. On social media pages, the Carabinieri paid tribute to Rega's "unconditional and brave dedication", and said his loss would be felt by his 110,000 fellow Carabinieri officers.