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

ROME (KGO) -- The family of 19-year-old Finn Elder of San Francisco, who is being held in the death of an Italian police officer, has spoken to the I-Team's Dan Noyes. They confirm that in 2016, Elder was charged with suspicion of battery involving serious bodily injury after an arranged fight with a teammate in the Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep football team at Stern Grove. His uncle, Sean Elder, tells us Finn does not have a criminal record, and that he never saw a sign of violence in him.

RELATED: Slain Italian police officer put to rest as Bay Area men face possible murder charges

A source close to the Elder family has concerns about leaks from the police about this case, and about conflicting accounts of his alleged confession.

Here's what we know from court documents about what happened, step-by-step.

On Tuesday, Dan Noyes stopped at each of the locations from that night - the spot where the officer was mortally wounded, the hotel room where police say the young men hid the knife behind a ceiling panel, the police station where the teens were interrogated, even the home of a man police identified as a drug dealer who interacted with the teens.

RELATED: Finnegan Lee Elder: Who is the American student accused of fatally stabbing Italian officer Mario Cerciello Rega?

Elder's family tells the ABC7 I-Team they arranged this solo trip to Italy for him, hoping he would have a break from his circle of friends.

They booked one night at the Meridian Hotel hotel in Rome so he could meet 18-year-old Gabe Natale, who had been visiting his grandfather, who lives near Rome. The young men were 2018 graduates of Tam High in Mill Valley.


Newly-released court documents state Elder and Natale went to Trastevere, a popular neighborhood with bars and restaurants this past Friday, allegedly looking for cocaine.

According to court records, they contacted a local, the man on the bicycle shown on surveillance video, and he introduced them to a dealer who took their money.

This image from surveillance video allegedly shows a drug deal in Rome. Officials say this moment preceded the fatal stabbing of an officer on Saturday, July 27, 2019.

This image from surveillance video allegedly shows a drug deal in Rome. Officials say this moment preceded the fatal stabbing of an officer on Saturday, July 27, 2019.


But when the alleged drug deal went bad, the California teens reportedly ran away with the backpack from the man on the bicycle.


The backpack owner called police and they listened as he called Natale and Elder using WhatsApp. They arranged a meeting at a street corner. At a news conference on Tuesday, the Italian police commander said they respond to complaints like this often - people asking for ransom for what they stole, and that's why two officers responded in plain clothes.

In court records, the surviving police officer states they showed their police ID cards and identified themselves as law enforcement, or "carabinieri" in Italian.

Police say Gabe Natale, who speaks Italian, told them he doubted the men were officers and the fight began, with Natale striking one officer with his fists. They also say Elder later admitted he stabbed the second officer.


On Tuesday, the police commander said the surviving officer didn't have time to react, and did not want to shoot the suspects in the back as they ran away.

In court documents, Officer Andrea Varriale said he saw his partner, Mario Cerciello Rega "bleeding abundantly from his chest. Before falling on the ground he said, 'They stabbed me.'"

Cerciello Rega died from 11 stab wounds later at the hospital.


Surveillance video shows the fatal encounter with police lasted less than four minutes. A porter and a doorman back at the hotel spotted the teens running back, after 3 a.m.

From surveillance video, police were able to track Natale and Elder back to the hotel, Room 109. In court documents, police say they found the murder weapon: a 7-inch US Marine style knife drenched in blood, hidden behind a ceiling panel. Police released a photograph of the knife on Tuesday.

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An Italian judge says one of the two American teenagers jailed in Rome for the slaying of a police officer has stated he stabbed the plainclothes officer because he feared he was being strangled, according to an order obtained by The Associated Press.


Police also said on Tuesday that the deceased officer forgot to bring his gun that night and that Finn Elder brought the knife on the plane from the U.S.

The I-Team broke the news that Finn Elder's father, Ethan, is heading to Rome, expected to arrive Wednesday morning.

The I-Team's Dan Noyes is in Italy covering the investigation for ABC7. Follow his updates on Twitter and Facebook.

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

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