US diplomat visits Bay Area teen held in officer’s death

Bay Area

ROME (AP) — The family of a 19-year-old California resident who is under investigation for the Rome slaying of an Italian police officer says a U.S. government official has briefly met with the jailed teen.

His family said in a statement Monday that Finnegan Lee Elder had gone to Rome as part of his first solo trip to Europe because a friend from home, 18-year-old Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorthand, “apparently has family there and had invited him to stay.”

Natale-Hjorth also is in custody in connection with Friday’s fatal stabbing of 35-year-old on-duty plainclothes officer Mario Cerciello Rega during what Italian authorities alleged was an extortion attempt by the teens to get money and drugs.

Court records show Elder is suspected of being the one who knifed the officer, while Natale-Hjorthand is suspected of hitting the slain officer’s partner.

Elder grew up in San Francisco and played rugby and football in school. He had just finished his first year attending a community college.

The family statement said: “Finn has no criminal record and no disciplinary record at any school he attended.”

The statement continued: “We continue to gather facts about his case through his legal representatives. Meanwhile, we are grateful that he has been provided medical care. There is much we do not know yet.”

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

An Italian judge says one of the two American teenagers jailed in Rome for the slaying of a police officer has stated he stabbed the plainclothes officer because he feared he was being strangled.

Judge Chiara Gallo wrote in an order upholding the jailing of the two California residents that Finnegan Lee Elder told authorities he knifed Carabinieri officer Mario Cerciello Rega after he felt pressure on his neck.

But the judge said in her Saturday order that the 19-year-old did not have any marks on his neck indicating strangulation. The Associated Press obtained the order on Monday.

Gallo said the young man’s friend and travel companion, 18-year-old Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, told investigators that Elder informed him back at their hotel he had used a knife and then washed it.

The officer was stabbed 11 times and died shortly after on Friday.

The judge concluded the two Americans had a “total absence of self-control” and were highly dangerous.

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