Queens Man Charged With Murder After Paramedic’s Stabbing
Early on Friday morning, police officials announced murder charges against a Queens man who was arrested the day before in connection with the brutal and seemingly random attack on a 24-year veteran of the New York City Emergency Medical Service.
Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, 61, was walking to her station in Astoria after lunch on Thursday, just before 2:30 p.m., when a local resident, Peter Zisopoulos, 34, approached and stabbed her repeatedly, the police said.
An onlooker chased Mr. Zisopoulos to his nearby home, where he barricaded himself on the third floor. The Police Department’s hostage negotiation team talked him into leaving the apartment, James Essig, the chief of detectives for the department, said at a news conference on Thursday.
Mr. Zisopoulos was arrested and later charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon. On Friday morning, two police officers guarded the entrance to his apartment building.
The stabbing of Lieutenant Russo-Elling, who was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Queens hospital, is the latest attack in a series of seemingly random murders and other crimes that has left the city on edge.
In January, a 40-year-old woman was shoved to her death in front of a subway train in Times Square, in a seemingly random attack by a man who had a history of mental illness and who may have been homeless. In April, a mass shooting on an N train in Brooklyn left at least 23 people injured. A month later, a man on a Manhattan-bound Q train fatally shot another passenger without provocation.
The violent episodes present a challenge for Mayor Eric Adams, who ran for office on a promise to rein in violence on the streets and in the subways.
At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Adams called Lieutenant Russo-Elling “one of our heroes” and noted that she had responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
“Our hearts go out to her family, her colleagues and the city of New York,” the mayor said. “She was working for this city. She paid the ultimate sacrifice because of that.”
Lieutenant Russo-Elling spent nearly a quarter-century working a job known for considerable risk in responding to 911 calls. But she lost her life during an otherwise ordinary walk to get lunch, in a quiet corner of Queens with streets lined with small apartment buildings and family homes.
Speaking to reporters, Keechant L. Sewell, the New York City police commissioner, said the killing of Lieutenant Russo-Elling was a manifestation of crime and disorder that she said was plaguing the city.
“This deadly, senseless, broad-daylight attack on an E.M.T. member is a direct assault on our society,” she said. “It is the latest consequence of the violence that we relentlessly fight in our city.”
“We can never tolerate this violence,” she added. “It has to and will be stopped.”
Lieutenant Russo-Elling, who is survived by her daughter and her parents, had worked for the New York Fire Department since 1998, the department said in a statement.
Laura Kavanagh, the acting fire commissioner, said Lieutenant Russo-Elling was the second emergency medical worker to die in the line of duty in New York in the past five years and the 1,158th member of the Fire Department to do so in its history. She called the killing “a barbaric and completely unprovoked attack.”
The last emergency medical worker to die, Yadira Arroyo, 44, was killed in 2017 in the Bronx when a man commandeered her ambulance and crushed her beneath its wheels.
Fire Department officials said on Friday that purple-and-black bunting would be draped on the exterior of the E.M.S. station where Lieutenant Russo-Elling served.
Gina Heeb contributed reporting.