For 24 years, emergency medical technician Alison Russo-Elling served the New York Fire Department, dedicating her career to saving lives.
On Thursday, while she was on duty, her life was snuffed out in a random attack, roughly six months before she was set to retire.
According to the New York Post, Lt. Russo-Elling was stabbed to death less than a block from Station 49 in Astoria, Queens.
Russo-Elling, 61, was taken to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“It was totally unprovoked. There was no rhyme or reason. There was no back and forth,” a business owner who witnessed the attack told WCBS-TV. He said he’d previously seen the suspect, identified as 34-year-old Peter Zisopoulos, wandering aimlessly around the neighborhood before.
The man appeared “unhinged” and “like he was on another planet,” the business owner added.
The suspect was chased to his apartment building by an onlooker, The New York Times reported, where he barricaded himself in his home. Hostage negotiators talked him out.
“While outside her station she was stabbed multiple times in a barbaric and completely unprovoked attack,” acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said. “Members of EMS serve only to help and save other people’s lives. To be attacked and killed in the course of helping others is both heartbreaking and enraging for our department in ways I can’t describe.”
Vincent Variale, president of the FDNY Local 3621 union, said the EMT “was about six or seven months away from retirement.” She had reportedly planned to spend the time with her daughter and grandchildren.
Russo-Elling was also one of the first responders at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001; she also aided in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.
“Alison was the sweetest, kindest person you’ve ever met,” Variale said. “She was also very brave.”
Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat who ran on a law-and-order platform, called the attack senseless and heartbreaking.
“Every day they do their job, in a manner where many of us don’t realize how dangerous it is. She was doing her job and paid the ultimate sacrifice because of it,” he said.
Adams has been struggling to control the wave of serious crime that the pandemic has unleashed in New York City, as it has in so many other cities. Some of the news is good; according to city statistics, murders are down 12.1 percent year-to-date through August (although one must take into account the spike in killings the city saw in 2020 and 2021).
On the other hand, there was a 26 percent increase in index crime in August of 2022 as compared to August of 2021 — and while shootings have been down, overall crime has been up for the year.
Of course, New York City has some special problems many locales don’t have to struggle with. One is the state’s liberal bail reform laws, which eliminates cash bail for most crimes. Progressive prosecutors in the city have also let numerous individuals charged with serious crimes out on bail.
In February, a homeless career criminal who had been been arrested four times in the past year on serious charges and seven times since 2015 was charged in the murder of 35-year-old advertising executive Christina Yuna Lee.
— New York Post (@nypost) February 14, 2022
Brian Chin, the landlord of the building Lee lived in — and was killed in — blamed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a progressive DA in the mold of former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin or current Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
“This all could have been avoided. This guy should never have been out of the street,” Chin told reporters.
“And it’s DA Alvin Bragg playing politics with people’s lives and the Asian community has been hurt. To have a DA who has won those horrific crimes right on his doorstep. And he doesn’t even bother to show up. It’s disgraceful.”
Joycelyn Dodds Panthier’s 26-year-old son Peter Panthier was allegedly killed by an acquaintance in March; video appeared to show the suspect turning and pulling a handgun on Peter, shooting him in the head.
“Something has to be done,” Joycelyn Dodds Panthier told the New York Post.
She also had a message for Mayor Adams: “Fix the city!” she said. “Hold people accountable for their actions. Children are dying.”
Yes, and so are 61-year-old grandmothers — in this case, a 61-year-old grandmother who served the city as an EMT for 24 years. May God have mercy on her family — and on a city whose politicians have opened the door to this kind of carnage, all in the name of progressive kindness.
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