Mother’s ‘nightmare’ after US teen admits killing Italian cop

A police car stations under the Meridien hotel in Rome, where two suspects from California, Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, were arrested hours after Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, was knifed 11 times to his death, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (AP)
Updated 31 July 2019

Mother’s ‘nightmare’ after US teen admits killing Italian cop

ROME: The mother of a US teen detained in Rome over the killing of an Italian police officer spoke Wednesday of her shock at the arrest of her “thoughtful boy,” as the suspect’s father arrived in Italy.
Finnegan Elder, 19, has been charged with aggravated homicide along with friend Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 18, following the death of officer Mario Cerciello Rega, who suffered multiple knife wounds in Friday’s attack.
Elder has confessed to stabbing Cerciello, 35, with a US Marine partially-serrated, close-quarters combat knife, according to police. But says he mistook the plain-clothed officer for a dangerous drug dealer and used the weapon in self-defense
His father Ethan Elder said on arrival in Rome that “the first thing I need to know is how to get into prison to see my son,” before heading directly with his lawyer to the city’s Regina Coeli jail, according to Italian media reports.
“We feel like our world has come crashing down,” Elder’s mother Leah said in an interview with Italy’s La Stampa daily.
“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like a nightmare we’ll wake up from.”
Their son was high on a mix of spirits, beer and prescription medicines when the attack took place, police said Tuesday. Cerciello had tackled him to the ground during a nighttime drugs raid in a genteel Rome neighborhood.
“Finn is a thoughtful boy. The only explanation I can give, if he really is involved directly in this tragedy, is that he was terrified and therefore reacted rashly,” the suspect’s mother said.
She added that he had in the past taken powerful painkillers for an injury to his hand suffered while working part-time in a car parts shop.
He had to have part of a finger amputated after a nasty fall off a ladder which left his left hand partially paralyzed, she said.
The teenager took “strong painkillers and opioids” to manage the pain, as well as marijuana, she added.
Cerciello and his plainclothes partner Varriale had been tasked with intercepting the Californian teens after an intermediary on a drug deal reported them to the police for stealing his bag after they were sold aspirin in the place of cocaine.
“I didn’t know he did any other drugs,” Leah Elder said.
Asked about a violent incident when her son was younger, in which he punched a fellow teenager who fell and hit his head, she said it was part of a boxing ritual called “fight night” and not a sign Finnegan was violent.
“Finn had agreed to take part in a match with a friend, the other kids were gathered around watching. He hit him and the boy fell and hit his head and was hurt badly, but recovered in a few days and is very well now,” she said.
He was ordered to perform community service and after that his criminal record was wiped clean, she added.
The weapon used in the attack on Cerciello, which has an 18-centimeter (seven-inch) blade, was brought over from the US.
“Having a knife is not unusual for a kid of his age in our neighborhood,” Elder said.
The family, which has Irish, Lithuanian and Spanish roots, had sentimental ties to Italy.
The Elders had been on their honeymoon in Tuscany and “we fell in love with the country.”
“When Finn said he was going to Italy too, where I used to go as a girl, we were happy,” Leah Elder said.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.