Prime Minister on Italian police officer who was allegedly murdered by American teens: 'Deep wound for the state'

An Italian police officer who was allegedly murdered by two American teenagers following a botched drug deal was laid to rest on Monday, the Daily Mail reports. 

Hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects to 35-year-old Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, who was allegedly stabbed eight times by Californian teens Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth,18, after they were purportedly sold fake drugs. Over the weekend, friends and family of the officer packed a church in Somma Vesuviana, where the policeman had just wed his wife Rosa Maria Esilio 43 days before. 

"We have remembered Mario in tears: all the lovely things, the moments spent together," Salvatore Di Sarno, the town's mayor, told reporters. "But also the tragedy, a terrible affair which cannot go unpunished."

Crowds applauded as police pallbearers carried Cerciello Rega's casket, which was draped with an Italian flag, into the church. In a eulogy, Italy's military chaplain, Archbishop Santo Marciano, said the officer, who was a member of the country's Carabinieri paramilitary police force, lived and died to protect others.

"Enough with mourning servants of the state, children of a nation that seems to have lost those values for which they sacrifice their lives," he said, according to the Daily Mail. 

Attendees at Cerciello Rega's funeral included Di Sarno, deputy prime ministers Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini and Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi.  

Photo: Carabinieri

On Sunday, Sandro Ottaviani, the policeman's station commander, told reporters that Cerciello Rega "always thought about his neighbors, both during the service shifts and when he didn't wear the uniform."

"He used to make pilgrimages to Lourdes and Loreto to help the suffering people every week," Ottaviani said, in reference to the two major Catholic pilgrimage sites. "Without telling anyone, he volunteered. Not only does a brave Carabineri die, but a great man." 

That same day, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called Cerciello Rega's death a "deep wound for the state." 

Cerciello Rega's suspected murderers were arrested last Saturday, following an investigation into his death. In a detention order, prosecutors said Finnegan Lee Elder repeatedly stabbed the cop, who was looking into the theft of a bag in the aftermath of a botched drug deal in Rome. Elder's friend, Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, is accused of punching Cerciello Rega's partner, who was not seriously injured in the incident. 

An investigator told the Associated Press that, prior to the stabbing last Friday, Elder and Natale-Hijorth had robbed a drug dealer after he had supposedly given them a "different substance" other than cocaine. The pair then demanded that the dealer give them a 100-euro ($112) ransom and a gram of cocaine before they returned his bag. 

The suspected dealer then reportedly called police, claiming that he had arranged a meeting with the two teenagers. Police said a scuffle ensued at the rendezvous point, leading to the stabbing and Cerciello Rega's death. 

The Carabinieri added that they were able to identify Elder and Natale-Hijorth as the suspects after interviewing witnesses and going through surveillance footage. Upon searching the pair's hotel room, police found a long knife, which had been hidden behind a panel in the room's ceiling, the Carabinieri said. Both Elder and Natale-Hijorth have since confessed, the Associated Press reports. 

On Sunday, Elder's parents released a statement, saying they have not been in contact with their son since he called them from a police station.

"We are working with the U.S. State Department, but they have not been granted access to Finn," the statement read, according to ABC News. "What we know so far is that Finn has been appointed an Italian public defender to handle his case. We plan to go to Rome as soon as the State Department assures us we will be able to see our son."

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