NEW YORK -- An EMS lieutenant was stabbed to death in a random attack in Queens on Thursday afternoon, officials said.
It happened at around 2:15 p.m. while she was on duty at Station 49 on 20th Avenue and 41st Street in Astoria.
"While outside her station she was stabbed multiple times in a barbaric and completely unprovoked attack," said Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. "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."
The suspect, identified as 34-year-old Peter Zisopoulos, was taken into custody after barricading himself in a nearby building. He was charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
Alison Russo "exemplified FDNY EMS," Kavanagh said, adding she was a 25-year veteran who responded to the 9/11 attacks.
"Our hearts go out to the family, her colleagues and the city of New York. We lost one of our heroes," Mayor Eric Adams said.
"This deadly, senseless, broad daylight attack on a uniformed EMT member is a direct assault on our society," Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. "We can never tolerate this violence in our city. It has to, and will, be stopped."
NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said Russo was going to get food when she was "viciously attacked" by the 34-year-old suspect, "stabbing her numerous times about her body."
CBS2's Tim McNicholas spoke on the phone with a business owner who turned his security video over to police. He said he watched it and it shows Russo near 20th Avenue and 41st Street. He said a man walked out of an apartment building, ran towards her, and stabbed her multiple times.
The business owner said, "It was totally unprovoked. There was no rhyme or reason. There was no back and forth."
McNicholas asked that business owner if he'd ever seen the suspect before and he said he had seen him wandering around the neighborhood aimlessly and that he looked "unhinged" and "like he was on another planet."
A woman who lives nearby told CBS2 the same thing earlier. She said she thought he was mentally unstable.
"When I saw the commotion I thought, I hope it's not him. And then when it was, I was surprised and shocked because, again, I didn't think that he was a threat to anyone," Camilla Groth said.
Russo was rushed to Mt. Sinai Queens Hospital, but she did not survive.
Good Samaritans chased the suspect back to his home, where the suspect barricaded himself. He was later taken into custody.
Heartbroken FDNY members could be seen hugging each other at the hospital.
Russo was described as a dedicated public servant. After 8 p.m., a procession led her body from the hospital in Queens to the Medical Examiner's Office. A sea of fellow servicemen were gathering at the hospital all evening to pay their respects to her, CBS2's Alecia Reid reported.
The 61-year-old became an EMT with the FDNY in 1998. By 2002, she was promoted to paramedic, and then lieutenant in 2016.
Russo was cited multiple times for the great work she did during her decades-long career with the FDNY. Her bravery and life-saving work included time spent as a World Trade Center first responder.
"She was absolutely beloved on this job," Kavanagh said.
That sentiment was echoed by colleagues and friends. A long time friend said the men in Russo's unit looked up to her, saying they were like her sons.
"She loved the job. She loved working in Astoria. She enjoyed ... she enjoyed what she did. She loved all the other guys under her. She used to call her kids and she was a happy person," Jackie Gardiner said.
Mayor Adams said the random, senseless attack on a first responder is heartbreaking and enraging.
"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," Adams said.
Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro and Fire Officers Association President Lt. James McCarthy released the following joint statement in the wake of a tragic stabbing:
"The death of Alison Russo is a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by each and every member of the FDNY and uniformed services. Her senseless killing brings sorrow to every member of the FDNY. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Department with bowed heads, and we will forever be here to support our FDNY family in this unspeakably difficult time. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Alison's family, loved ones, and colleagues."
Kavanagh thanked the hospital for doing everything in its power to save Russo, who leaves behind her parents, a younger brother and a daughter.
The FDNY said Russo was the 1,158th line-of-duty death. The last EMS worker killed in the line.
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