ROME - A large crowd bid a final tearful farewell to an Italian police officer who was stabbed to death in Rome last Friday. Two American teenagers are in custody in connection with the killing.
Relatives, friends, colleagues and top political leaders attended the service in the officer’s hometown of Somma Vesuviana, near Naples. The solemn service was held in the same church of Santa Croce where the 35-year-old officer was married a month-and-a-half ago. Those who did not make it inside the church for the service stood outside in the square.
A minute of silence Monday preceded the funeral.
Applause broke out when the coffin, wrapped in the Italian tricolor, arrived and was carried inside the church by his widow, Maria Rosaria, and six police officers. Atop the coffin were wedding pictures, Mario’s officer cap and a shirt of soccer club Naples, his favorite team.
Top political leaders, including Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and top Carabinieri officials, attended the ceremony.
In his homily, Monsignor Santo Marciano said, "We would not have liked to be in this church today, the same church where Mario got married.”
He added, "We are here to ask for justice so that events like this may never ever occur again."
He also told the gathering, “Enough with mourning servants of the state, children of a nation that seems to have lost those values for which they sacrifice their lives.”
As the coffin left the church, the crowd outside released white balloons into the sky.
Many of the residents of Somma Vesuviana knew Mario personally. Many say he was a wonderful, kind person who did not deserve to die in this way.
A resident said the entire town has been completely covered with posters and signs left from every person’s heart — an emblem, a flag, a note saying goodbye to Mario.
Mario Cerciello Rega was in plainclothes when he was stabbed 11 times in a central Rome neighborhood. Two American teenagers, Finnegan Lee Elder, age 19, and 18-year old Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth have been detained over the killing. Both had attempted to obtain some cocaine earlier.
Both are being held in the Rome prison of Regina Coeli as investigations continue. They could face up to life imprisonment if convicted.