From Catholic school to Italian prison: former Sacred Heart student murders Italian police officer


Illustration credit: Loki Olin

In the early hours of July 26th, 2019, an Italian police officer was brutally stabbed and killed. He was investigating a drug deal and was undercover when the situation turned bad. There was a fight, and in the scuffle, the officer was killed. The person who committed the crime was a 19-year-old who had recently graduated from Tamalpais High School and also attended Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco.

His name is Finnegan Lee Elder, and on Friday, July 26th, he and his friend Gabriel Natale Hjorth were participating in a drug deal in an attempt to acquire cocaine. In the scuffle, Elder fatally stabbed the cop 11 times and then fled. Both Elder and Hjorth were arrested by Italian law enforcement after the incident. 

Despite this incident taking place so far from home, this story has its start in the Bay Area. Elder has a history of violence — as a 16-year-old at Sacred Heart, he gave a fellow student a severe brain injury by punching him and knocking him to the ground, during which he hit his head. The altercation occurred in Stern Grove, at a party where Elder fought another Sacred Heart student, resulting in the serious brain injury. 

Both of these incidents call into question the accountability of the schools this student attended. The first crime was committed when Elder was 16, and he was charged but it was resolved in juvenile courts and never resulted in jail time. Shortly after this incident, he transferred schools but Sacred Heart only officially punished Elder by barring him from the final football game of the year. This time in Italy, he will be tried as an adult and jail time is inevitable. 

The severity of each crime causes concern about the impact of Elder’s schooling on his life and how the two incidents could reflect on Sacred Heart and Tamalpais High. Charlotte Worsley, the Assistant Head for Student Life at Urban, said, “I don’t think it reflects on the school at all.” 

These incidents bring up the legal responsibility of schools if one student seriously injures another student, whether on school property or not. The school in question ultimately decides whether to punish the student or whether they are going to get legally involved. If the school was found liable for any injury to a student, they could be at risk of being sued. As Worsley said, “I’m sure that this is the kind of thing that the school talked to their lawyer about.” Even though the two schools Elder attended might have contacted their lawyers about his crimes, neither school ended up getting involved legally.
The shock of the deadly crime committed in Italy has reverberated around the world, sparking outrage in Italy and shock in the Bay Area.