Alison Russo-Eling served in the FDNY for nearly 25 years...

Alison Russo-Eling served in the FDNY for nearly 25 years and was a World Trade Center first responder, according to officials. Credit: FDNY

This story was reported by John AsburyRobert Brodsky, Matthew Chayes and Anthony M. DeStefano. It was written by Brodsky.

A uniformed paramedic from Huntington was stabbed to death Thursday afternoon in Queens in a "barbaric" and "unprovoked attack," city officials said.

Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, 61, a 24-year veteran of the FDNY and a World Trade Center first responder, was grabbing lunch about 2 p.m. when a male suspect stabbed her multiple times, NYPD Chief James Essig said at a news conference Thursday evening at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens, where she died.

Russo-Elling, who was assigned to Station 49 in Astoria, is the 1,158th member of the FDNY — and the second from EMS in the past five years — to die in the line of duty, officials said.

Police arrested a 34-year-old suspect, who was not identified, after he fled a pursuer on foot and barricaded himself inside his Astoria apartment, Essig said. 

"She was stabbed multiple times in a barbaric and completely unprovoked attack," FDNY acting Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said at the news conference. "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 cannot describe."

At the hospital Thursday evening, grief-stricken FDNY personnel lined up outside the ambulance bay, preparing to move Russo-Elling's body.

Just after 8 p.m., hundreds saluted the moments before a coffin carrying Russo-Elling was to be driven through a gantlet of FDNY medics, firefighters and personnel from volunteer ambulance corps — the procession bound for the city Medical Examiner's Office in Manhattan. The coffin had been carried into an ambulance by FDNY personnel.

Vincent Variale, president of Russo-Elling's labor union, Local 3621 of DC 37, said Russo-Elling had just stepped out of her FDNY vehicle when she was stabbed.

Variale said Russo-Elling is the mother of an adult daughter, and was less than a year from retiring.

"I just talked to her a couple of weeks ago," he said. "She could have retired in six, seven months."

The stabbing occurred at the corner of 20th Avenue and 41st Street. Russo-Elling, in full EMS uniform, left the nearby station to get lunch when she was stabbed with a knife by a man wearing a light gray T-shirt and dark pants, Essig said.

It was too soon in the investigation to determine a potential motive, according to Sgt. Carlos Nieves, an NYPD spokesman.

The killing of a uniformed EMS member "is a direct assault on our society," said NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell. "It is the latest consequence of the violence that we relentlessly fight in our city."

There were two eyewitnesses to the attack who knew the perpetrator, one of whom gave chase, Essig said.

The suspect ran into a building on 41st Street where he barricaded himself in his third-floor apartment, police said.

Members of the hostage negotiating team and the Emergency Service Unit were able to talk the suspect out of the apartment and he was taken into custody, Essig said. He is being held at the 114th Precinct, authorities said.

"We lost one of our heroes," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams of Russo-Elling. "She provided this service in the city for over 24 years. The suspect has been apprehended and will be held accountable for his actions."

To honor the slain paramedic, flags at state buildings will be flown at half-staff Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

"Our hearts are with her family as we honor her life and remember her as a hero," Hochul said in a news release. "I know all New Yorkers are grateful for her service over more than two decades with FDNY and as a World Trade Center first responder."   

Kavanagh said Russo-Elling has been recognized multiple times "for her bravery and her lifesaving work and she was absolutely beloved on this job."

There was no answer Thursday night at Russo-Elling’s Huntington Station ranch home, decorated with an American flag and a pumpkin on her front porch.

Friends left notes on the front door asking to help her family. 

Neighbors said Russo-Elling was a longtime volunteer on the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, where members hung black and purple bunting Thursday night.

She was to celebrate her 30th anniversary with the group in November, said Andrea Golinsky, public information officer for the Huntington Community First Aid Association 

For several years, Russo-Elling was a "day captain," which meant that she scheduled and set up the roster for the first aid crews, which normally worked four-hour shifts.

She was also an advanced life support specialist, which meant that she was capable of giving drugs to person in cardiac arrest, Golinsky said.

Word of Russo-Elling's death shocked neighbors in Huntington Station, some gasping at hearing how she died. They spoke of her kindness and friendship.

"She’s a wonderful person," said Nicole Shreck, 51, who has lived across the street from Russo-Elling for the past decade. "She was really nice. She talked to everyone and was always willing to lend a hand. It's terrible and heartbreaking." 

Tracy Gunther, 51, of Greenlawn, a friend of almost 20 years, described Russo-Elling as a loving mother and dedicated to her work, and looking toward retirement and traveling, fishing and kayaking. 

“She was such a kind and giving person you would always want to be around,” Gunther said, adding that Russo-Elling was caring for her parents. Her daughter was recently engaged. “It’s just a horrible loss. … She was not even doing her job when it happened. It was just such a senseless thing.”

Gunther said she learned of the stabbing of her friend when she read a text message, and then battled a range of emotions. 

“I couldn’t believe it. At first shock and then I realized what happened,” she said. 

In a statement, FDNY Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro and FDNY Fire Officers Association president Lt. James McCarthy said Russo-Elling's "senseless killing brings sorrow to every member of the FDNY."

Russo-Elling was "very straightforward," Variale said with a smile, on the verge of tears. "You knew where you'd stand with Alison. She would tell you."

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