According to the leader of her union, a lifelong member of the emergency services who was fatally stabbed in New York City planned to retire soon and spend more time with her family.
Lt. Alison Russo-Elling was scheduled to retire in roughly six to seven months, according to Vincent Variale, head of the union for uniformed EMS officers, who spoke to reporters outside the hospital where Russo-Elling passed suddenly on Thursday from her injuries.
Russo-Elling, a nearly 25-year veteran of the city’s fire department who was one of the first responders to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was fatally stabbed, according to police, who announced Friday that Peter Zisopoulos, 34, was being charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon in the case.
According to investigators, Russo-Elling was on duty when she was attacked near her station on Thursday afternoon in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens.
When Zisopoulos allegedly stabbed the 61-year-old Russo-Elling many times, she was going to a corner store to grab something to eat, according to the police. She was brought to a local hospital where doctors declared her dead.
According to the authorities, Zisopoulos went to his flat and locked himself inside. When he finally agreed to come out, he was then taken into custody. It wasn’t known if he had legal representation who could address the allegations.
The reason for the stabbing is still being looked into.
Russo-Elling joined the fire department in March 1998 as an EMT. In 2002, he received a promotion to paramedic, and in 2016, he was appointed lieutenant.
According to the Daily News, Russo-Elling, a mother and grandmother, resided in Huntington, Long Island, and had volunteered there with the local ambulance corps.
The union’s president, Variale, claimed to have just spoken with Russo-Elling last week in an interview with the New York Post.
“Alison was the sweetest, kindest person you’ve ever met,” Variale said. “She was also very brave.”
Another colleague, EMS Capt. Mike Dadonna, told the Post that Russo-Elling “always greeted you with a smile. No matter what was going on, she had a smile.”
Russo-Elling received many citations for daring and life-saving work, according to acting fire commissioner Laura Kavanagh, who appeared at a news conference on Thursday alongside mayor Eric Adams and other officials.
“And she was absolutely beloved on this job,” Kavanagh said.
Adams, a former police officer whose time in uniform coincided with that of Russo-Elling, claimed to be well-versed in the duties carried out by EMS personnel.
“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.”