Is This Justice?

Two American Men Convicted For The Murder Of Italian Police Officer

By: Kylie Hapuarachchi

FILE -- In this April 29, 2021 file photo, Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, left, and his co-defendant Finnegan Lee Elder, both from the United States, wear face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 as they sit during a break of a hearing of their trial in Rome. A jury will soon be weighing the fate of the two young American men, charged with slaying an Italian police officer while they were on holiday in 2019. (Remo Casilli/Pool Photo via AP)

Gabriel Natale Hjorth (left) and Finnegan Lee Elder (right) await their life in prison sentencing for the murder of Officer Brigadier Cerciello Rega. Credit:

What seemed like a normal vacation in Italy, ended in a blood bath when two American men murdered an Italian police officer. Gabriel Natale Hjorth and Finnegan Elder were held in Italian prison awaiting their conviction which came on May 5th 2021. 

It had been over a year of awaiting the fate of their actions. In July of 2019, Hjorth and Elder had an altercation with two plainclothes officers, Brigadier Cerciello Rega and Andrea Varriale. 

Hjorth and Elder had been looking for cocaine when the drug deal went the wrong way. The men then stole a backpack from the supposed drug dealer. The officers were then sent to retrieve the stolen backpack.

When confronted, Hjorth and Elder met the officers with brute force. Hjorth fought Officer Varriale while Elder used a seven-inch military-style knife to repeatedly stab Officer Rega. 

Elder has admitted to stabbing Officer Regas with the knife eleven times. Although, he claims it to be self defense. 

His admission to the stabbing can persuade the court into favoring Officer Regas. The act that Elder had done of the repeated wounds to Officer Regas are questionable.

For one, wouldn’t Officer Regas be incoherent by the first wound inflicted on him. The defense has a solid case showing the anger and even being able to use the men’s drug abuse as a valid reason for why they would be guilty of the crime. 

The men’s defense claim is due to the fact that they both had no understanding that those Officers were part of the Italian military defense. They had believed to be using self-defense with their actions towards the officers whom they thought were trying to mug them. 

The men had also mentioned how Elder was in a compromising position where Officer Rega was on top of him and Elder felt like he was being strangled. Once again mentioning that he did not know that they were being confronted by officers. 

However, the prosecution cross-examines the men and states that Officers Varriale and Rega showed their identification prior to the altercation. 

Officer Varriale’s testimony comes with the same story of how they had identified themselves and the men had still become agitated with them. 

The prosecution also claims that the events of that night were full of evil, homicidal tendencies of the men. 

The then-teenagers were arrested a few hours later at their hotel. 

Hjorth and Elder were found guilty of the murder of Officer Rega and also on the charges of attempted extortion, carrying a weapon without a cause, resisting public arrest and of course assault that led to the death of Officer Rega. 

The men have been sentenced with the highest punishment possible in Italian law with life in prison. 

Elder’s lawyer, Renato Borzone, believes that this conclusion of the trial is insanity. He claims that the Italian government is being harsh to prove a point. 

While Hjorth’s lawyer, Fabio Alonzi, is appealing the verdict still keeping the claim that Hjorth is not guilty and has been wrongfully convicted. 

Hjorth and Elder have spent the past 21 months in prison while Officer Rega’s wife Rosa Maria Esilio mourns the death of her husband. 

The men in question were charged due to anger and frustration clouding their judgements. One wrong move created a cascade of varying fates for Hjorth, Elder and Officer Rega and his family. 

The conviction of the men will always be a punishment not large enough for the life they took away from a wife, away from a brother, away from a community. Officer Rega’s death will always be there and the conviction will never truly make that go away. 

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