A 34-year-old Queens man with no criminal history has been charged with murder in the random killing of a veteran EMS lieutenant and 9/11 first responder who was stabbed in an apparently unprovoked attack outside the stationhouse where she worked, authorities said Friday.
Peter Zisopoulos is also accused of criminal possession of a weapon in the brazen mid-afternoon stabbing Thursday in Astoria.
According to police, Alison Russo-Elling was outside EMS station 49, on her way to pick up food, at the time when someone came from behind and stabbed her multiple times, including in the neck, by 20th Avenue and 41st Street.
She died of her injuries at a hospital in what the acting head of the FDNY called a “barbaric and unprovoked attack.”
Zisopoulos ran away after the stabbing — but two witnesses knew him, and one of them chased him into his 41st Street building, police said. He barricaded himself in his third-floor apartment for about 90 minutes before he was eventually coaxed out without further incident, police officials said.
NBC New York’s Chris Jose reports.
Russo-Elling served with EMS for 25 years — and was among those who raced into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh said. The 61-year-old was “cited multiple times for her bravery and her life-saving work, and she was absolutely beloved on this job,” Kavanaugh added.
Her death has left the city reeling.
“We lost one of our heroes,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a late Thursday press conference after going to the hospital where Russo-Elling had been taken. “She was working for this city, and paid the ultimate sacrifice because of that.”
Russo-Elling was the 1,158th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty, and the second EMS to die in the line of duty in the last five years.
“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,” Kavanaugh said, calling her an exemplary FDNY EMS member. “Our hearts break for our entire department and her family.”
The union that represents EMS workers emphasized at the press conference that Russo-Elling was not on a break at the time of the deadly attack, saying “EMS does not get breaks, we are on-duty 24/7 out there to help save the public.”
Russo-Elling leaves behind a daughter, the FDNY said. The NY Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, also known as Answer the Call, said that they would be providing Russo-Elling’s family with $50,000 “to help alleviate any financial concerns during this unimaginably difficult time.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul directed flags on state buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of the slain EMS lieutenant.
“Today our city is grieving. The New York City Police Department stands united with the FDNY and the entire city of New York as we mourn the tragic loss of a dedicated public servant,” said NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell. “This senseless, deadly, broad-daylight attack on a uniformed EMT member is a direct assault on our society. It is the latest consequence of the violence that we relentlessly fight in our city.”
Information on a possible attorney for Zisopoulos wasn’t immediately available Friday.
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