By KAREN MATTHEWS, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime emergency services worker who was killed in an unprovoked stabbing in New York was planning to retire in a few months and spend more time with her family, said the head of his union.
Lt. Alison Russo-Elling was about six or seven months away from retirement, Vincent Variale, president of the EMS Uniformed Officers Union, told reporters outside the hospital where Russo-Elling died of her injuries Thursday.
Police announced Friday that Peter Zisopoulos, 34, was charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon in the fatal stabbing of Russo-Elling, a nearly 25-year veteran of the city’s fire department who was among first responders at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Russo-Elling was on duty when she was stabbed Thursday afternoon near her post in the Astoria section of Queens, authorities said.
Russo-Elling, 61, was heading to a convenience store to buy something to eat when Zisopoulos allegedly stabbed her multiple times, police said. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Zisopoulos ran to his apartment and locked himself inside, police said. He was arrested after finally being persuaded to come out. It was unclear if he had a lawyer who could comment on the charges against him.
The motive for the stabbing is under investigation.
Russo-Elling joined the fire department as an EMT in March 1998 and was promoted to paramedic in 2002 before becoming a lieutenant in 2016.
Mother and grandmother, Russo-Elling lived in Huntington on Long Island and had volunteered with the local ambulance service there, according to the Daily News.
Variale, the union’s president, told the New York Post that he just spoke to Russo-Elling last week. “Alison was the sweetest, kindest person you’ve ever met,” Variale said. “She was also very brave.”
Another colleague, EMS Captain Mike Dadonna, told the Post that Russo-Elling “always greeted you with a smile. No matter what was going on, she had a smile on her face.”
Acting Fire Marshal Laura Kavanagh, who joined Mayor Eric Adams and other officials at a press conference on Thursday, said Russo-Elling was repeatedly cited for bravery and lifesaving work. .
“And she was absolutely loved in that job,” Kavanagh said.
Adams, a former police officer whose uniformed service overlapped with that of Russo-Elling, said he was very familiar with the work performed by emergency medical service workers.
“Every day they do their job in a way that many of us don’t realize how dangerous it is,” Adams said. “She worked for this city. She paid the ultimate sacrifice because of it.
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