I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Father of Italy stabbing suspect talks about son's arrest

ROME (KGO) -- The father of a Bay Area teen held in the stabbing death of an Italian police officer has given his first interview to an American journalist, and that interview is an ABC7 I-Team exclusive.

Dan Noyes has been working the story in Rome since the incident eleven days ago, and he has the interview you'll see only on seven.

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Questions raised about investigation of Bay Area's Finn Elder, Gabe Natale who've been arrested in slaying of Italian Officer Mario Cerciello Rega

Noyes spent more than an hour with Fabrizio Natale this evening. Natale was open and frank, didn't dodge any questions and it got quite emotional when he spoke about seeing his son in jail here for the first time.

After days of discussions, Dan went with a translator to the Rome office of an attorney for

Natale's family, who asked that we talk off camera but on the record. The past eleven days have been very difficult, especially for his son, 18-year-old Gabriel, who is being held in jail. "Gabriel is exhausted, frightened, and trying to make sense of it all," Natale said.

Natale gave new details of the events leading up to the killing. Gabe, along with his father and brother, arrived from San Francisco July 20, and went straight to his grandparents' beach house in Fregene.

On Wednesday, July 24, Fabrizio's brother, Claudio, seen with him the night before, needed to pick up a car. Gabe asked Claudio to drop him in Rome; he had heard from a friend, Finn Elder, and wanted to show him around.

"I've never heard of Finn before. He's not in his circle of friends," Natale said.

Claudio and Gabe's uncle dropped Gabe at the Meridian Hotel, where Finn's mother obtained a room for him using miles. That Wednesday night out was uneventful.

On Thursday, July 25, Gabe texted his uncle for restaurant recommendations. They agreed to head back to the beach together later. But that Friday morning, Claudio couldn't reach Gabe. He went back to the hotel only to find police swarming. Gabe asked him what they were doing there, but they wouldn't give him any answers.

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The family found out Gabe had been arrested when a photo of him appeared on the 8pm news in Rome.

"It was the deepest discomfort," Natale said. "I was frightened myself. You just feel emptiness. If feels like the whole world is crashing in on you."

It took five days before Natale was able to see his son at the jail in central Rome, under arrest for participating in an altercation that ended with the death of a police officer.

"He burst out crying. We hugged each other," Natale said. "Gabe started telling me he had no idea about the stabbing, he had no idea the other boy had a knife. He had no idea it could turn out that way and kept repeating that over and over again."

Prosecutors say Finn Elder admitted to stabbing Mario Cerciello Rega, and that the officer suffered eleven wounds.

Then a photo got leaked - police had handcuffed and blindfolded Gabriel before his interrogation.

"I certainly didn't feel good to see that photo," Natale said, "It's the understatement of the year."

Natale and his lawyer say they decided to talk to Dan because of the legwork he has done; they are using I-Team reports, in part, to prepare their case.

"We are convinced of Gabriel's innocence," Natale said. "We believe when the truth comes out, it will serve us well."

And to officer Rega's widow and family, Natale says, "It is a tragedy. They lost a human life. I feel their grief-- In truth, there's nothing I can say to make their pain less excruciating and I'm aware of that."

Tuesday both defense teams returned to the hotel room where the young men stayed, carabinieri guarding the floor and blocking the public from seeing. Prosecutors brought a forensics team for another examination.

In his first public statements on the case, Finn Elder's attorney said, "The operation wasn't very relevant," and he is pressing prosecutors to release surveillance videos of the deadly altercation, including one from the bank across the street.

RELATED: Bay Area Italian Americans raise money for slain Carabinieri

Elder's Attorney Roberto Capra said in a press conference, "We're confident that the video of the moment of the encounter exists and that's why Elder signed the official request."

Roberto Capra told the crush of reporters that Finn Elder didn't know Mario Cerciello Rega was a police officer, and that lashing out with this knife was "a reaction" because Finn felt he was being strangled in a drug deal gone wrong.

"He said that when he was first questioned, and this quote is in the official report," Capra said.

Prosecutors claim the boys were "clearly under the influence" of beer, liquor and drugs that night, but they admit police did not collect blood samples. So there is no independent proof that the young men were impaired by anything.

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

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