Italian news agency ANSA, citing unidentified investigators, said two Americans allegedly snatched a drug dealer's bag with the phone and cash after he swindled them by giving them aspirin instead of the drugs they wanted. The owner of the bag called his phone and one of the thieves offered to sell the bag back to him for 100 euros ($112).
The owner called the police after he and the thief agreed to meet for the exchange, Reuters reported.
A car of the Italian Carabinieri, paramilitary police, is parked near a blood stain, the site where Carabiniere Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega was stabbed to death by a thief in Rome on Friday. (Angelo Carconi/ANSA Via AP)
Two plainclothes paramilitary police officers arrived at the scene of the meeting around 3 a.m. During a scuffle, Carabinieri paramilitary officer Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, was stabbed eight times, the news outlet said. The officer had just returned from his honeymoon with his longtime sweetheart a few days prior.
He was stabbed in the heart and back and died a short while later in a hospital.
“A manhunt is underway in Rome to catch the bastard who tonight stabbed to death a Carabinieri,” tweeted Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who commands the state police.
He vowed the perpetrators would do “hard labor in prison for the rest of their days.”
RAI radio reported the Americans were seen on surveillance video apparently running away with the bag, which had been stolen in the Trastevere neighborhood, an area popular with tourists and young Italians for its bustling nightlife.
Two Italian Carabinieri, paramilitary police officers, stand near a blood stain, the site where their colleague, Carabiniere Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, was stabbed to death by a thief in Rome. (Associated Press)
The Carabinieri police corps did not immediately confirm the alleged confession. Prosecutors were apparently still questioning the Americans at a Carabinieri station in Rome early Saturday.
The Americans were reportedly staying in an upscale hotel near where Rega was stabbed, a police official said. Their identities and hometowns were not immediately released.
Cerciello Rega was described as generous and kind by people who knew him. He regularly escorted ailing people to a religious shire in the town of Loreto, his station commander Sandro Ottaviani said.
Others said he frequently checked on the homeless living in Rome's main train station and distributed meals and clothes to those in need. He sometimes bought them lunch out of his own pocket, they said.
Cerciello Rega's funeral will take place Monday, ANSA reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.