Two American teens stand accused of killing an Italian police officer while visiting Italy.

The original incident occurred in Rome when 19-year-old Finnegan Lee Elder and 18-year-old Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, who were visiting from San Francisco, were confronted by Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega. Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, were assigned to respond to a possible extortion attempt by the teens following a failed drug deal. The teens managed to get their hands on a backpack during the deal and tried to extort the dealer for cocaine and money in return for the bag. Instead, the man reported the extortion plot to police.

When Rega and Varriale responded to the teens, they were dressed in street clothes with nothing visible that would have identified them as police. Shortly after confronting them, the four ended up in a scuffle that resulted in Rega being stabbed multiple times. Elder and Natale-Hjorth were then arrested by police Friday and remain in custody.

Shortly after his arrested, Elder confessed to the stabbing but also claimed it was in self-defense. He said the pair didn’t know Rega and Varriale were police officers and they didn’t identify themselves when approaching the pair. The four then got into a scuffle where Elder claimed Rega was strangling him, leading to Elder stabbing Rega in self-defense.

However, Carabinieri Gen. Francesco Gargaro said during a press conference Tuesday that Rega and Varriale did identify themselves as police to the teens, who promptly attacked them.

“They did not have the possibility to use weapons and react,” Gargano said during the conference.

Court documents released Monday also show that the investigating judge on the case stands with Gargano. The judge revealed there were no signs Elder was being strangled and that Rega’s wounds were not reflective of “legitimate defense.”

Elder and Natale-Hjorth have also offered contradicting stories of the incident. Elder claimed that Natale-Hjorth had hidden the knife in the ceiling after the stabbing while Natale-Hjorth claimed he didn’t know about it until Elder told him he had stabbed someone.

The pair is currently in the custody of Italy’s Carabinieri and could be facing life in prison on charges of murder and extortion.

police line Representation image of a crime scene. Photo: Gerd Altmann/ Pixabay