Finnegan Elder, American Teen Accused Of Killing Italian Police Officer, Has Violent Past

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Who Is Finnegan Elder? New Details On American Teen Accused Of Killing Italian Police Officer And His Violent Past

Finnegan Lee Elder, a 19-year-old student, was on vacation with his buddy Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth in Italy. The boys were drinking, partying and doing drugs all throughout the city. In an attempt to score some drugs, Elder ended up stabbing and subsequently murdering an Italian police officer. The boys are currently being held in an Italian prison awaiting trial. While his name is splattered all over the press right now, what do we really know about him? Who is Finnegan Elder? 

1. A Normal Teenage boy

Finnegan Lee Elder was a normal teenage boy, living in the San Francisco area. He attended a Catholic Prep high school before transferring to  Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley his junior year. This is where he met Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth. When asked, his neighbor Gloria Keeley reported that she would never have guessed he could be violent. She said: “I saw nothing that would lead me to believe that this would ever happen. I saw no violence in him.” She added that he was a normal teenage boy, and no one would have foreseen this. 

2. ...or so we thought

It has come out in the news recently that this wasn't Elder's first brush with violence. Apparently, when the boy was just 16-years-old, he punched a classmate so hard that he ended up with a brain injury. At the time, the police reported that the victim sustained possibly life threatening injuries. Elder's uncle released a statement saying that the fight between the two boys was agreed upon. He said that the fight was being encouraged by the football players who were also at the party. He added that his nephew didn't have a history of violence before this. He was tried in a juvenile court, so his sentencing is unavailable. He did change schools the following year, but that is said to be because the whole family moved, and not due to disciplinary action from his original high school.

3. A drug deal gone wrong

Finnegan Lee Elder and friend Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth were on vacation in Italy and wanted to score some cocaine. They set up a meeting with a drug dealer where they were prepared to give him the equivalent of $90 USD in exchange for coke. The drug dealer tried to fool the teens by instead giving them a bag of crushed aspirin. When Elder and Natale-Hjorth realized what had happened, they stole the drug dealer’s bag and his phone, demanding ransom of a gram of cocaine and the equivalent of $112 USD. The drug dealer instead called the police, who set up a sting to catch the boys. Something went wrong and the boys ended up stabbing officer Mario Cerciello Rega 11 times and fleeing to their hotel room to take a nap.

4. Was it self-defense?

Elder claims that he stabbed the officer as a form of self-defense. He said that he wasn’t aware the men were police officers and he thought they were attacking him. He says that Mario Cerciello Rega (a Carabieri police officer) was choking him and he needed to stab the officer to get away.

A judge, Chiara Gallo, ruled that impossible. He said that there were no signs of strangulation on the boy and that self-defense doesn’t warrant the 11 stab wounds that the officer suffered. On top of that, both boys were drunk at the time of the stabbing and Elder was on pharmaceuticals. There is a good chance they did not have a clear picture of what was happening.

The Judge said that the crime displayed a “total absence of self-control.” He released a statement saying: “Neither of the two suspects showed that they understood the gravity of the consequences of their conduct, displaying an excessive immaturity even with respect to their young age and the degree of violence."

5. Controversy in the case

There are apparently some facts that aren’t lining up in the story between the teens and the officers. Both boys claim that they were unaware the men were police officers. The police say they identified themselves as such. Some of the police officers were off duty while the others were undercover so it stands to reason the boys in a foreign country could be confused. It has also been reported that Rega did not have his gun on him, although investigators say he would not have had time to get it out, so it would not have helped him regardless.

6. Treatment of the suspects in question.

There was a photo released of one of the boys, Natale-Hjorth, sitting in a chair, blindfolded with his hands bound behind him. This has caused people to question how the Italian police officers were treating the suspects. There are mixed feelings among the public about the photo. One Italian paper called the photo “macabre exhibition” and an affront to “the constitutional principles and moral values that hold up our democracy.” Others disagree, claiming that the Natale-Hjorth is no victim. Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini took to Facebook saying: “The only victim is a man, a son, a husband, a Carabiniere, a servant of the state.”

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7. Amanda Knox wary of the boys’ confession.

Amanda Knox was an American exchange student who was falsely accused and convicted of killing her roommate in Italy. She spent the night at her boyfriend’s apartment and when she got home the next morning, she found her roommate murdered. Somehow, Italian police tried and found her guilty, even though there were bloody fingerprints all over the apartment of a known burglar. She served four years in jail before winning her appeal. This is relevant in this case according to U.S. criminal defense attorney Brian Claypool, because of the way the teens are allegedly being treated by the Italian police department. He said, "One saving grace for these teenagers in Italy is, much like what happened with Amanda Knox, if they are found guilty, they will have an opportunity to have an appeal of the entire facts that led to a decision of guilt”. 

Amanda Knox released a statement on Twitter saying: “Many are asking me about this case. All I can say is: I'm withholding judgment. It should be tried in the court of law, not the court of public opinion. In any case, it's tragic. My [heart] goes out to the victim's family”.

8. His family hasn’t spoken to him since in police custody.

His family has reported that they don’t have very much information about what happened, and what their son has allegedly done. They released a statement saying: “We write as a family to express our deepest condolences to the grieving family and community that loved Brigadier Cerciello Rega. We are shocked and dismayed at the events that have been reported but have very little independent information about these events. We have not been able to have any communication with our son. We ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time. Our thoughts are with all of those who have been impacted by this tragedy”.