ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) — A suspect has been taken into custody after a 61-year-old on-duty FDNY Emergency Medical Services lieutenant was stabbed to death in Queens Thursday.
The incident happened near the intersection of 20th Avenue and Steinway Street in Astoria around 2:15 pm.
Police say the victim, identified as EMS Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack while on duty and standing outside of FDNY EMS Station 49.
They say the suspect, wearing a light gray t-shirt, brandished a knife and stabbed Russo numerous times.
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She was taken to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Police say the suspect then fled the scene and ran to 19-80 and 41st Street and barricaded himself inside his third floor apartment.
Members of the hostage negotiating team and emergency service unit talked the suspect out of the building.
Police walked him across the street. He didn’t have a trace of emotion on his face.
Neighbors describe him just that way, as a loner they would often see walking, expressionless, around the block.
“He seemed to have a routine,” neighbor Camilla Groth said. “Just walking around the block maybe a two or three block radius, always solitary, not on his phone, never talking to anyone and always by himself and just very self-contained. And I noticed that.”
But now he’s accused of incomprehensible violence. An unprovoked attack on a public servant.
He was taken into custody with charges pending.
Meanwhile, the 25-year veteran of the FDNY was also a 9/11 first responder.
Russo was appointed to the FDNY as an EMT in 1998. She was then promoted to paramedic in 2002, and to lieutenant in 2016. She worked at multiple EMS stations across the city, including Station 20, Station 17, Station 16, Station 45, Queens Tactical Response and Station 49, where she had been working for the last year.
The lieutenant also served as a rescue paramedic in her career and had training for performing pre-hospital emergency medical care.
The 61-year-old was a Long Island resident and is survived by her daughter, grandchildren and her parents.
“We lost one of our heroes, she provided a service to the city for over 24 years, her assailant has been apprehended and will be held accountable for his actions,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said.
There was an outpouring of emotion and sympathy outside the hospital.
When word got out that an EMS lieutenant had been attacked on the job and did not make it, FDNY EMS members gathered at the hospital to console one another and to mourn.
Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh and an FDNY chaplain led a prayer circle in the area where ambulances pulled into the hospital. There were a lot of tears and hugs.
Russo’s body emerged from an emergency room Wednesday night surrounded by uniformed FDNY personnel.
The FDNY Firefighters and Fire Officers associations released a joint statement in response to Russo’s death:
“The death of Alison Russo is a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by each and every member of the FDNY and uniformed services. Her senseless killing brings sorrow to every member of the FDNY. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Department. with bowed heads, and we will forever be here to support our FDNY family in this unspeakably difficult time. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Alison’s family, loved ones, and colleagues.”
Mayor Adams ordered flags on all city buildings to be lowered to half-staff Thursday night.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has also requested that flags be flown at half staff in honor of Lieutenant Russo from sunrise Friday until after her funeral. There’s no word yet on when that will be.
The NY Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, also known as Answer the Call, announced they will be providing Russo’s family with $50,000 to help them financially.
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