ASTORIA, Queens (WPIX) – An FDNY EMS member was fatally stabbed in a “barbaric” and “unprovoked attack” while on duty in New York City on Thursday, Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.
EMS Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, a 24-year veteran of the FDNY, was stabbed in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria around 2:20 p.m., according to FDNY and NYPD officials. Russo-Elling was rushed to the hospital in critical condition but died from her injuries, officials said.
Russo-Elling, 61, was outside Station 49 in Astoria when she encountered a 34-year-old man at the corner of Steinway Street and 20th Avenue, officials said. The man “viciously attacked” Russo-Elling with a knife, stabbing her multiple times without provocation, Chief James Essig said.
The suspect fled to his residence on 41st Street and barricaded himself inside, according to police. NYPD negotiators were able to get the suspect to surrender, and he was taken into custody.
Officials later identified the suspect as 34-year-old Peter Zisopoulos. He has been charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon, according to authorities.
“Our hearts go out to the family, her colleagues and the City of New York. We lost one of our heroes,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “Her assailant has been apprehended and will be held accountable for his actions.”
In addition to serving the department for nearly 25 years, Russo-Elling was a 9/11 World Trade Center first responder and has been cited for her bravery multiple times, according to FDNY Commissioner Kavanagh.
“She was absolutely beloved on this job,” Kavanagh said. “Members of EMS serve only to help and save other people’s lives. To be attacked and killed in the course of helping others is both heartbreaking and enraging for our department in ways I cannot describe.”
Russo-Elling was a Long Island resident and a mother, according to the FDNY.
She is the 1,158th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty and the second member of EMS to die in the line of duty in the last five years, officials said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement on Russo-Elling’s death.
“New York’s first responders deserve to return home safely at the end of their shifts. Our hearts are with the family of the EMS lieutenant who was killed while delivering care today and the entire @FDNY as they mourn this tragic loss,” Hochul said on Twitter.
Hochul directed flags on state buildings to be flown at half-staff starting on Friday in honor of Russo-Elling.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris, who represents multiple Queens neighborhoods, including Astoria, also shared words mourning the death of Russo-Elling.
“Horrible loss for Astoria and the entire New York family,” Gianaris said on Twitter. “My heart goes out to the family of the FDNY EMS Lieutenant who was tragically killed earlier today. May everyone grieving be comforted by the love and strength of our community.”
Russo-Elling’s daughter, Danielle Fuoco, asked the public to keep her mother in their prayers and remember her as “the hero she was.” Both she and First Deputy Chief Katie Donegan remembered Russo-Elling as someone who truly loved her job.
“EMS and service to others was her greatest love,” Donegan told WPIX. “Just really a spitfire, a great personality, just lit up a room when she came in and truly was such a dedicated and steadfast provider, no matter what it was.”