Both suspects were also being investigated for attempted extortion connected to the alleged drug deal.
An Italian investigator said the pair had snatched the bag of a drug dealer in Rome after the man apparently gave them a different substance instead of the cocaine they were seeking.
Two American teenagers were jailed in Rome on Saturday as authorities investigate their alleged roles in the fatal stabbing of an Italian police officer on a street near their hotel. The Carabinieri said their investigation reveals that shortly before the murder, the two young men stole a backpack from an Italian man, and then threatened him during a phone call that they would not return the backpack unless they were given 100 euros and a gram of cocaine.
Rega was responding to the supposed meet-up spot where 19-year-old United States tourists Finnegan Lee Elder and Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, both from San Francisco, were to return a bag and phone they had earlier swiped from a man who had pointed them in the direction of a drug dealer, according toThe New York Times. Police said the knife had been hidden behind a panel in the room's dropped ceiling.
Hours after his death became known, Italian state police stopped their cars outside the general headquarters of the Carabinieri and sounded their sirens in tribute to the officer. Cerciello Rega sustained multiple stab wounds and later died of his injuries in hospital.
A police statement said surveillance footage and witness testimonies had helped the Capitoline Investigative Unit to identify the two responsible for the "heinous crime". Interrogated by the Carabinieri under the oversight of Rome's public prosecutor, the accused confessed.
Elder's lawyer, Francesco Codini, said his client had exercised his right not to respond to questions during a detention hearing Saturday.
A judge has yet to rule on whether Natale Hjorth and Elder will be held beyond the three day period authorized, the AP said Saturday.
In this photo released by Carabinieri, is portrayed officer Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, who was stabbed to death in Rome early Friday, July 26, 2019.
"We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services in cases where USA citizens are detained or arrested overseas", the State Department said in a brief statement to CNN.
The Carabinieri police force said in a statement that the pair were arrested Friday night for "the crime of aggravated murder and attempted extortion".
The killing has made front-page headlines in Italy.
The arrest warrant describes the multiple stabbing as a disproportionate reaction since officers Varriale and Rega had not drawn their weapons. Those who knew the officer praised him as a kindhearted man who volunteered.
Flowers have also been left at the Carabinieri station in Rome's Piazza Fornese.
"He never held abet at work and he used to be a figurehead for the whole district".
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