Gabriel Natale-Hjorth is escorted by police officers during the trial for the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer in summer 2019, in Rome, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
UPDATED 8:37 AM PT – Thursday, May 6, 2021
A jury in Rome convicted two young American men in connection to the 2019 slaying of a police officer in a drug sting gone wrong. On Wednesday, Finnegan Lee Elder was found guilty of stabbing Mario Rega 11 times with a knife and his friend Gabriel Natale-Hjorth was also found guilty of murder for helping Elder hide the knife.
Elder claimed self defense. He said the officer and his partner, who were in plain clothes, rushed him and he didn’t have time to think. The officers had been looking into a reported extortion attempt allegedly organized by the Americans when the stabbing occurred.
“I panicked and believed he wanted to kill me,” Elder explained to the court. “As soon as I felt his hands squeezing my neck…I instinctively pulled out my knife and hit him a few times in an effort to get him off me.”
The jury sentenced Elder, 21, and Natale-Hjorth, 20, to life in prison.
Finnegan Lee Elder listens as the verdict is read, in the trial for the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer on a street near the hotel where he and his co-defendant Gabriel Natale-Hjorth were staying while on vacation in Rome in summer 2019, in Rome, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)