The 34-year-old Queens man accused of stabbing a veteran EMS captain, 9/11 first responder and mother more than 20 times in an unprovoked sidewalk attack not far from the Astoria stationhouse she served for decades was arraigned Thursday on a two-count grand jury indictment charging him with murder and weapons possession, prosecutors say.
Peter Zisopoulos faced a judge virtually from his hospital room at Bellevue, where he has been held since the horrific Sept. 29 attack. Prosecutors say he walked up to Alison Russo, a 61-year-old 9/11 first responder and 25-year EMS veteran, as well as a mother, in the middle of the afternoon that day, knocked her down and stabbed her repeatedly.
She was in uniform at the time and on duty, according to the charges — and merely walking down 20th Avenue, between 41st and Steinway streets, when Zisopoulos, who had no prior criminal history, set upon her without warning or provocation, prosecutors say. He allegedly continued to knife her as she was on the ground, then ran off, barricading himself in his 41st Street building for roughly an hour and a half before he was coaxed out and taken to a hospital.
Zisopoulus has a documented history of schizophrenia and though officials say he had no known connection to Russo, personally, he had been taken to her very same stationhouse by EMS the last time he needed psychiatric hospitalization.
It wasn’t clear if he entered a plea at Thursday’s hearing, nor was his the name of his attorney immediately clear. He faces up to life in prison if convicted and is due back in court in late November.
“This is a tragic case and a devastating loss for the family as well as our city,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement. “Our condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues that she leaves behind.”
Zisopoulus’ arraignment comes a day after hundreds of colleagues, family and friends filled a concert hall on Long Island to mourn Russo. Her father was among those to eulogize the beloved 61-year-old mentor and friend — and he minced no words in condemning Zisopoulus for allegedly taking the life of someone he says only would have helped him.
Funeral services were held Wednesday for Alison Russo, an FDNY EMS Lieutenant that was stabbed and killed in a random attack, Greg Cergol reports.
The killing was captured on chilling surveillance video. And Russo’s father says he watched the whole thing.
“I couldn’t hear her cry out, ‘Mom, Dad, help,'” he said, his voice cracking. “That man murdered my daughter. He killed her and tore a hole in our hearts and all of her colleagues. That man murdered my daughter and she would be the first one to come to his aid if he ever needed her help. He left her lying in the street like a ragdoll that was just discarded.”
Russo’s father spoke of her lifetime devotion to give medical aid to the sick, injured and cardiac arrest patients — her commitment to rescue transcended humans and she saved dogs, too, he said, calling her “such a beautiful person.” He said he hoped that, over time, the memories of her kindness would help fill the gaping void in so many hearts.
Russo was the 1,158th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty, and the second EMS to die in the line of duty in the last five years.
Alison Russo was a 9/11 first responder who went on to answer more than 25,000 911 calls for the city of New York.