American Teens in Rome Admit to Murdering Police Officer After Botched Drug Deal, Officials Say

Italian authorities are holding two American 19-year-olds on charges of aggravated murder and attempted extortion in the killing of police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, 35.

Police have identified the suspects as Christian Gabriel Natale Hjorth and Elder Finnegan Lee. Hjorth and Lee, both residents of San Francisco, were on vacation in Rome at the time of the fatal incident.

The trouble began when the pair got into an altercation over a drug deal, according to a statement by the Carabinieri police force.

The young men attempted to purchase cocaine from a local, according to the police statement. Upon realizing the substance they had paid for was not cocaine, and that they had been duped, Hjorth and Lee allegedly stole the seller's bag and demanded a ransom of 100 euros (approximately $112) and one gram of cocaine.

The owner of the bag reported the theft to local police who arranged to meet Hjorth and Lee undercover. After Officer Rega revealed his identity, one of the Americans allegedly pulled out a knife and attacked, stabbing him eight times.

Rega was pronounced dead at 4:30 a.m. local time.

Hjorth and Elder were arrested in their hotel room near the scene of the crime in Rome's Prati neighborhood. The Carabinieri quickly identified the Americans as suspects and located them using witness testimony and video surveillance footage, officials said.

The men were preparing to leave Italy when they were arrested, authorities told CNN.

"They were already ready to leave the country," police told the network. "During the search of the hotel room, which was occupied by the two detainees, the murder weapon was found and seized, a knife of considerable size, cleverly hidden behind a ceiling panel, as well as the clothes worn during the crime."

During questioning, "in the face of overwhelming evidence, they confessed to the charge," the police statement continued.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told Newsweek, "We are aware of these reports. When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, the Department works to provide all appropriate consular assistance."

Reports did not specify if the men are receiving legal counsel.

On Friday and Saturday various branches of Rome's police force paid homage to their fallen colleague with a procession and a siren salute outside the Carabinieri headquarters.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini posted a picture of Resa on Twitter with the caption: "Mario, a carabinier, a hero, a boy with all his life ahead, had been married for just 40 days..."

American Teens in Rome Admit to Murdering Police Officer After Botched Drug Deal, Officials Say | World