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‘Heartbreaking and enraging’: EMS lieutenant stabbed and killed in senseless Astoria attack

FDNY personnel outside hospital after EMS lieutenant fatally stabbed
Lt. Alison Russo-Elling’s body is moved from Mount Sinai Queens Hospital. (Photo by Dean Moses)

A 61-year-old EMS lieutenant was fatally stabbed in Astoria on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 29, authorities reported.

The lieutenant, Alison Russo-Elling, who had served for 25 years, died as a result of the unprovoked attack, according to police. Her alleged attacker is now in custody.

According to Chief James Essig, at approximately 2:10 p.m., at the corner of 20th Avenue and 41st Street, Russo-Elling was getting food nearby an EMS station she was assigned to about half a block away. At 2:15 p.m., a 34-year-old man brandished a knife and viciously attacked Russo-Elling, stabbing her numerous times. 

FDNY personnel outside hospital after EMS lieutenant fatally stabbed
NYPD and FDNY gather outside Mount Sinai Queens. (Photo by Dean Moses)

She was transported to Mount Sinai Queens where she succumbed to her injuries. 

There were two eyewitnesses to the event, one who chased the assailant, who ran into 19-80 41st St. and locked himself in his third-floor apartment. Members of the Hostage Negotiation Team and Emergency Service Unit were able to talk the man out of his residence; he was taken into custody and is currently being held at the 114th Precinct.

Police later identified the suspect in custody as Peter Zisopoulos, of 41st Street. He is facing charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon, according to authorities.

The events leading to the lieutenant’s death were described during a press conference that Mayor Eric Adams held at Mount Sinai Queens in Astoria along with Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Acting Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. 

“This is a painful time for everyone. I served with EMS as a police officer, I know what they do every day,” Adams said. “Every day they do their job in a manner many of us don’t realize how dangerous it is. She was working for this city, she paid the ultimate sacrifice because of that.”

Mayor Eric Adams speaks at Mount Sinai Queens Hospital on Sept. 29. (Photo by Dean Moses)
EMS Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling. (Photo via Twitter/@NYCmayor)

Kavanagh said that members of EMS serve only to help people and save lives, making this attack senseless and heartbreaking.

“To be attacked and killed in the course of helping others is both heartbreaking and enraging for our department in ways I cannot describe,” Kavanagh said. “Lieutenant Russo exemplified FDNY EMS. She was a World Trade Center first responder; she was cited multiple times for her bravery and life-saving work. She was absolutely beloved on this job.”

EMS Lieutenant stabbed
Russo served 25 years and was a first responder at the World Trade Center. (Photo by Dean Moses)

Kavanagh said Russo-Elling was the 1,158th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty, and the second to die in the line of duty in the last five years.

“Our hearts break for our entire department and her family,” Kavanagh said. 

Sewell said that the NYPD stands with the FDNY and the entire city of New York as we mourn the death of a dedicated public servant. 

“This deadly, senseless broad daylight attack on a uniformed EMT member is a direct assault on our society,” Sewell said. “It is the latest consequence of the violence that we relentlessly fight in our city.”

Orem Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507, said that on behalf of all members, his condolences go out to the family of Russo-Elling.

“It’s a tragic incident when any life is lost, but especially a member of our EMS family who has dedicated her life and career to protecting and saving the lives of her fellow New Yorkers,” Barzilay said.

Russo-Elling was a Long Island resident and is survived by her daughter and her parents.

Answer the Call, an organization that raises funds for New York police and fire widows and children, will be providing Lt. Russo-Elling’s family with $50,000 to help alleviate any financial concerns.

To learn more or to donate, please visit: www.answerthecall.org.

Photo by Dean Moses
Standing at salute (Photo by Dean Moses)
Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling’s body is moved from Mount Sinai Queens Hospital. (Photo by Dean Moses)

Additional reporting by Dean Moses.

This story was updated at 8:20 a.m. on Sept. 30.

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