I-Team's Dan Noyes gets inside hotel where Bay Area men are accused of hiding knife used to kill Italian police officer

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- I-Team reporter Dan Noyes is tracing the route taken by two Bay Area mean after an altercation with Italian police that left one officer dead. Dan is investigating the investigation itself, and both defense teams are raising new questions about how police are handling the case. Dan has the latest from Rome.

The defense team for Finn Elder, the young man who's suspected of stabbing the officer to death, just filed a request to have him released early. Otherwise, he will have to remain in an Italian jail for a year until prosecutors make a charging decision.

RELATED: Step-by-step account of what happened in death of Italian officer allegedly by Bay Area's Finnegan Elder and Gabe Natale

A member of the other Bay Area family involved waved off reporters in Rome Monday, saying, "Please have some humanity and understand our sorrow."

We had our first look at Fabrizio Natale of Marin County after he visited his 18-year-old son, Gabe Natale-Hjorth. Under Italian law, Gabe could be charged with the murder of an Italian police officer, even though prosecutors say it was his friend, 19-year-old Finn Elder, who stabbed to death carabinieri officer Mario Cerciello Rega while Gabe fought off another officer at this intersection on July 26.

Finn's father has returned from Rome. He appeared before cameras Saturday with his wife and daughter outside their San Francisco home, while their lawyer, Craig Peters, read a statement from the family: "The public has an incomplete account of the true version of the events. It is said however, 'the truth shall set you free.' We look forward to the truth coming out and to our son coming home." Peters said.

The defense has criticized the police for leaking - just hours after the killing - some surveillance videos of the suspect's movements that night, but not video of the fatal struggle. They say the missing footage would show Finn acting in self defense.

Right at that intersection there are several businesses. The pizza and kebab shop doesn't have a surveillance camera. The camera at the pharmacy aimed right at the scene of the fight is covered by a solid security door at night.

RELATED: Parents of man accused of murdering Italian police officer say he is 'remorseful and scared'

There is another camera at the bank just across the street, and another one inside the lobby at the ATM that has a clear angle of that crosswalk where the fight occurred.

At a news conference, the police commander said that the bank surveillance camera was not working. But reporters from a major Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, spoke with the bank the day of the stabbing about video from that camera.

Rory Cappelli, Courts and Crime Reporter: "The video cameras were working."
Dan Noyes: "And the bank said that to you, to your newspaper."
Rory Cappelli: "Yeah."

Bank officials confirmed they provided the video to police. No other witnesses to the killing of Officer Rega have come forward, and Dan is investigating what happened right after.

Dan wanted to find out how long it took for the young men to leave the scene and get back to the hotel. Remember, it was after 3 a.m., and less traffic than during the day. Of course, the young men are faster than me, but here's my time. It took Dan 20 seconds to run the distance.

At the hotel, police say Finn and Gabe hid the knife in a ceiling panel of room 109. Monday, Dan met an American couple who happened to be checking into the room one floor above, room number 209. "Yeah, you could definitely hide something up there."

The defense teams for the young men are raising questions about the police operation that night. Prosecutors say an intermediary for a drug dealer complained the boys ran away with his backpack after they handed over some money and didn't receive any cocaine in exchange. He called the police, and Rega responded with his partner in street clothes. Police said Rega had forgotten his gun that night.

Dan Noyes: "There were four other patrol units around, why not just have them do the arrest?"

Rory Cappelli: "We don't know, this is another unclear point."

The defense questions:

  • whether the intermediary was a police informant who got special treatment with an undercover police response for a relatively minor crime of a stolen backpack. The carabinieri commander denied it at a news conference last week.

  • why the intermediary first told police the suspects were North African.

  • if the officer's knife wounds to his thighs are evidence he was choking Finn Elder from behind - could it be self defense after all?

The police say Officer Rega suffered 11 stab wounds, the last one to his heart. The coroner said Monday that the final autopsy report will be finished later this week.

Go here for more information and updates on the killing of Mario Cerciello Rega.
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