Viewing held for slain FDNY EMS Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling

FDNY EMS Lt. Alison Russo-Elling served the city for 25 years. She was a World Trade Center first responder.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Family, friends and colleagues gathered Momday to pay their respects to FDNY EMS Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling, who was stabbed to death. Jim Dolan has the details.

ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- Family, friends and colleagues gatherered to pay their respects to FDNY EMS Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling, who was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack.

The lieutenant's wake was held Monday and will continue on Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.at Commack Abbey Funeral Home in Commack, New York.

Her funeral will be held Wednesday at the Tilles Center at 720 Northern Boulevard, Brookville, New York on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.

Hundreds of first responders bearing the FDNY badge, lined in the pouring rain and waited for a final chance to see their friend and colleague on Monday.

Some brought flowers, but most offered hugs and reflected on the memories of the 24-year EMS veteran.

"She always tried to make people laugh and she tried to put them at ease," said Lt. paramedic Anthony Almojera, the Vice President of the FDNY EMS Officers' Union.

A solemn salute was made to Russo-Elling's parents and daughter as they arrived for her wake.

She was on duty when she was stabbed Thursday afternoon near her station in the Astoria section of Queens.

The 61-year-old Russo-Elling was heading to a corner store to get something to eat when Zisopoulos allegedly stabbed her multiple times, police said. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

A coworker, Michael Greco, spoke out over the weekend, saying no one should have to be afraid of this kind of attack.

"We've got 4,500 members of FDNY EMS who aren't doing very well in getting their head around the sort of senseless violence," Greco said.

Police announced Friday that Peter Zisopoulos, 34, was being 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 the first responders to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Zisopoulos remains at Bellevue Hospital, where he is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation. He could have a bedside arraignment as early as Monday.

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.

A mother and grandmother, Russo-Elling lived in Huntington on Long Island and had volunteered with the local ambulance corps there.

Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, who joined Mayor Eric Adams and other officials at a news conference last week, said Russo-Elling was cited multiple times for bravery and life-saving work.

"And she was absolutely beloved on this job," Kavanagh said.

Adams, a former police officer whose service in uniform overlapped with Russo-Elling's, said he is very familiar with the work that EMS workers perform.

"Every day, they do their job in a manner in which many of us don't realize how dangerous it is," Adams said. "She was working for this city. She paid the ultimate sacrifice because of that."

As the city continues to see random, violent attacks carried out by people with a history of mental illness, the mayor says the system needs an overhaul.

"Our goal now is to build that social net infrastructure," he said over the weekend. "We have to catch people before they carry out the attacks, and we have not been doing that."

Russo-Elling was planning to retire in a few months and spend more time with her family, the head of her union said.

"I spoke to her about a week and a half ago and asked her when she was going to retire," Almojera said. "She said Anthony ... February, six months."

Almojera wants to see a change.

"It's outrageous. It's outrageous that someone like Alison or any first responder EMS, especially an EMS supervisor, we ride alone," he said. "We're the only 911 supervisors that ride alone, which has got to change tomorrow."

ALSO READ | How Mayor Adams plans to deal with NYC mental health crisis

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