Sept. 30, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
An Astoria man has been arrested and charged with murder for the brutal stabbing of an EMS lieutenant in the Ditmars section of the neighborhood Thursday afternoon.
Peter Zisopoulos, 34, was arrested by police shortly after he allegedly stabbed 61-year-old Alison Russo-Elling to death at the 20th Avenue and 41st Street intersection at around 2:20 p.m. — in what officials say was a random and completely unprovoked attack.
Russo-Elling, a 24-year veteran who was a first responder to the Sept. 11 attacks, was on duty at the time of the incident and had left EMS Station 49 to get food when she was attacked, FDNY officials said.
A horrific video posted online appears to show Zisopoulos lunging at Russo-Elling, knocking her down onto the pavement. He then kneels on top of her and savagely stabs her at least 20 times in the chest and neck.
Zisopoulos can then be seen running away from Russo-Elling as she lays on the ground dressed in her uniform.
He was then chased by a good Samaritan before barricading himself inside his nearby apartment NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said Thursday. The incident took place outside Zisopoulos’ apartment, which is on the third floor of 40-19 20th Ave.
Zisopoulos was later taken into custody by police and charged with her murder and criminal possession of a weapon. The New York Daily News reported that he has a history of schizophrenia.
Russo-Elling was rushed to Mount Sinai Queens in critical condition but could not be saved, police said.
Russo-Elling was a Long Island resident who also worked with the volunteer ambulance corps in Huntington. During her career she was cited “multiple times for her bravery and her life-saving work,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.
She joined the FDNY as an EMT in March 1998 and was promoted to paramedic in 2002 before becoming a lieutenant in 2016, according to the FDNY.
Russo-Elling worked out of numerous EMS stations throughout her career before ending up at Station 49 – which is a block away from where she was fatally attacked. She is survived by a daughter and her parents.
Dozens of FDNY officials assembled outside Mount Sinai last night and formed a guard of honor as her body was removed from the hospital.
FDNY members salute #FDNY Emergency Medical Service Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling during her dignified transfer. She is the 1,158th member of the Department to make the Supreme Sacrifice while serving our city. Read more: https://t.co/f4BAN8B92w pic.twitter.com/esfBnn2yB5
— FDNY (@FDNY) September 30, 2022
The brutal killing of Russo-Elling sparked an outpouring of condolences from elected officials.
Mayor Eric Adams, who visited Mount Sinai hospital yesterday, said that her attacker would be held accountable for his actions.
“We lost a hero today,” Adams said. “She was murdered on duty in an unprovoked attack.”
Governor Kathy Hochul directed flags on state buildings to be flown at half-staff in honor of Russo-Elling.
“We remember Lt. Russo-Elling’s life, honor her service, and pray for her loved ones,” Hochul tweeted.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, who represents the district, also offered her sympathies.
“This is a horrible, heartbreaking story,” Cabán tweeted. “My deepest condolences to the loved ones of the victim, and to every EMS who courageously safeguards the health of our city, day in and day out.”