ROME — A 21-year-old San Francisco man on trial in the death of an Italian police officer told a court in Rome that he “panicked” and believed the officer, who he said did not identify himself, would kill him.
The man, Finnegan Elder, spoke publicly for the first time on Monday, to give his version of the events that led to the death of Deputy Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega, a 35-year-old, newly married officer in the Carabinieri, Italy’s national military police force, in July 2019.
Clutching several handwritten sheets of paper, his hand trembling at times, Mr. Elder said he had been acting in self-defense when he repeatedly stabbed the man who had just tackled him to the ground and was trying to restrain him.
“I remember little of the next few moments except for feelings of shock and terror,” Mr. Elder said. “I do remember, however, that I could feel his hands pressing on my chest and then on my neck with pressure, as if he were trying to strangle or choke me. At this stage, I panicked and believed he wanted to kill me. As soon as I felt his hands squeezing my neck, I instinctively brought out my knife and hit him three times in an effort to get him off me.”