Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson dies at 50

By Ruth Brown

The borough’s top prosecutor passed away at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital surrounded by his loved ones, who announced the death Sunday evening.

“With a heavy heart, the family of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that the district attorney passed away today after a hard-fought battle with cancer,” his office said in a release.

Thompson only revealed that he was sick last week, announcing that Chief Assistant Eric Gonzalez would act in his stead while he was undergoing treatment. His office would not say what type of cancer he had or when he was diagnosed, although Thompson said at the time that he intended to “fight and win” against the disease.

The son of one of the first female police officers to go out on patrol in New York City, Thompson grew up in the Bronx and graduated from New York University School of Law, then worked as an attorney for the U.S. Treasury Department and as a federal prosecutor.

The Clinton Hill resident became the borough’s first African-American district attorney in 2014 after defeating Charles Hynes, who held the post for 22 years.

Thompson ran on a platform of reform and police accountability, and set up a special unit to comb through wrongful convictions from his predecessor’s tenure, ultimately exonerating 20 people, according to the New York Times.

But he also came under fire earlier this year for recommending former Police Officer Peter Liang, a Bensonhurst resident, serve no jail time after a jury found the rookie cop guilty of shooting and killing an unarmed Red Hook man, Akai Gurley, in 2014.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all flags to be flown at half-mast Monday as a tribute to Thompson’s “enduring legacy,” and other elected officials expressed their condolences and kind words.

“With a life and promise cut far too short, our city was blessed with but a glimpse of Ken’s unwavering commitment to justice and his unrivaled pursuit of a more fair system for all those he served,” Mayor Bill DeBlasio. “Our courtrooms and our communities have no doubt been dealt a blow with Ken’s passing, but I am confident the indelible mark left by his public service will forever be a part of the fabric of our justice system.”

Thompson leaves behind his wife Lu-Shawn and his children, Kennedy and Kenny, as well as his own parents and two siblings.

Ruth Brown is the deputy editor of the Brooklyn Paper. Reach her atrbrown@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8309.

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