A veteran emergency medical worker died Thursday afternoon after being stabbed outside an EMS station in Queens, police said.
The victim was identified as 61-year-old Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling, a 25-year veteran. She was “stabbed multiple times in a barbaric and completely unprovoked attack,” Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said during a news conference at Mount Sinai Queens hospital on Thursday evening. Russo-Elling’s death marks the first on-duty death of an EMT in five years, an FDNY official confirmed.
NYPD Chief James Essig said the attack occurred at 2:15 p.m. outside an Astoria EMS station on the corner of 20th Avenue and 41st Street. Russo-Elling had walked a half-block away from the station when she was approached by a man wielding a knife and stabbed numerous times across her body, authorities said.
Russo-Elling, a Long Island resident, was getting food while wearing her uniform at the time, according to police. Following the attack, she was transported to Mount Sinai Queens, where she was pronounced dead.
In a joint statement Thursday night, FDNY-Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro and FDNY-Fire Officers Association President Lt. James McCarthy said Russo-Elling's death was a reminder of the dangers emergency responders face every day.
"Her senseless killing brings sorrow to every member of the FDNY," the statement said.
Mayor Eric Adams, who addressed the media in a solemn tone at the Thursday evening news conference, was briefed on the incident soon after it occurred and was later rushed to the hospital.
“As in all of our first responders, they are always on call,” Adams told reporters. “She was there for a reason. And no matter what the reason was, she should not have been murdered in this fashion.”
Essig said police arrested a 34-year-old man who was identified by two eyewitnesses at the scene. The suspect had fled inside a residential building. He was eventually apprehended with the help of hostage negotiators, according to Essig.
Russo-Elling was among the EMS workers who responded to the World Trade Center during the September 11th attacks and cited for her bravery, Kavanagh said.
In a statement on Thursday, Vincent Variale, president of Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621, referred to Russo-Elling as a “beautiful person” who was beloved by those who knew her.
“This horrendous act demonstrates that EMS officers take on the same risks as other first responders and don’t receive the same recognition for their labor,” Variale said. “EMS officers do not get breaks—they are on call to help save lives 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are the only first responders who respond alone. There is no driver, no partner, no aide, just a steadfast commitment to save the public when in need.”
Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, New York City's largest public employee union with 150,000 members and 89,000 retirees, said the union honored Russo-Elling for her service and her bravery over decades on the job.
“Our members take on very difficult jobs in the name of public service that all too often place them in harm’s way during the line of duty,” Garrido said.
An investigation is ongoing.
This story has been updated to include additional information as well as comment from FDNY-Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro and FDNY-Fire Officers Association President Lt. James McCarthy.