Condolences from throughout the borough and the city pored in following the tragic and untimely death yesterday of Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson.
Thompson, 50, the first black district attorney of Brooklyn and a voice for racial justice and criminal justice reform was born and raised in New York City and after graduating from public schools, he attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he graduated magna cum laude.
His mother, Clara Thompson, was one of the first female police officers in the New York City Police Department to patrol the streets in 1973. Kenneth attended New York University School of Law where he earned the Arthur T. Vanderbilt Medal for contributions to the law school community.
After a stint with United States Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., where he served as Special Assistant to former Treasury Department Undersecretary for Enforcement, Thompson accepted a position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney under Zachary W. Carter, in the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. During his tenure, he worked with Loretta Lynch as a member of the federal prosecution team in the 1997 trial of former New York City police officer Justin Volpe, who was accused of sodomizing Abner Louima inside a bathroom at the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn.
The watershed police brutality trial, at which Thompson delivered the opening prosecution arguments, resulted in Volpe changing his plea from ‘not guilty’ to ‘guilty’.
Thompson also worked with Senator Charles E. Schumer, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, other elected officials, and members of the clergy to convince the United States Department of Justice to reopen the investigation into the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi.
In September 2013 Thompson defeated incumbent Charles J. Hynes in the Democratic primary for Brooklyn District Attorney, where he ran as a critic of the New York City Police Department. After Hynes decided to run on the Republican and Conservative party lines in the general election in November, Thompson defeated him again. Thompson was the first challenger to defeat a sitting District Attorney in Brooklyn since 1911.
Thompson’s death at Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with his loved ones at his side comes just five days after Thompson said he was taking a sick leave to battle the unspecified type of cancer and that his chief assistant, Eric Gonzalez, would take over as interim district attorney. Governor Andrew Cuomo is charged with appointing his successor.
Below are some of the condolences and remarks of sadness regarding Thompson’s death from Brooklyn elected officials and civic leaders:
U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries: “Ken Thompson was a devoted father and loving husband. He built an incredible civil rights law practice founded on the principle of liberty and justice for all. He served our city and the nation with great distinction, first as a federal prosecutor and then as the dynamic Brooklyn District Attorney. And he was my friend.
“As District Attorney, Ken Thompson kept us safe, freed the wrongfully convicted, successfully prosecuted gunrunners, reformed the practice of low level marijuana arrests and established groundbreaking, compassionate smart on crime policies. In a short time in office, he made a tremendous difference and he will never be forgotten.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: “Brooklyn has lost a true champion of justice. Our borough stands united in mourning the terribly untimely passing of Ken Thompson, a man who set a gold standard for public service that has had an lasting impact across our country. From enacting marijuana prosecution reform to addressing the open warrant crisis for low-level offenses, he has introduced much-needed fairness and compassion into our criminal justice system. Furthermore, Ken’s commitment to the law and to the well-being of our children and families made our streets fundamentally safer.
“Ken was more than my colleague; he was my friend. I am honored to be beside him in the storied history of Brooklyn as the first African-Americans to hold boroughwide office, and I know that many young men and women will reach a bit higher because of the heights that Ken reached in his career and his life. Let us all lift up his family and friends at this most difficult hour, and let us continue to support the men and women of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office who will further the mission that Ken Thompson laid out for our borough, city, state, and nation.”
Kings County Democratic Party Chair & President of the Brooklyn Bar Association Frank Seddio: “All of Brooklyn is shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden passing of District Attorney Ken Thompson. His leadership in restoring vitality to Brooklyn’s top law enforcement office, and his commitment to justice for all were firmly demonstrated by his fight to free those who were wrongly convicted. Our thought and prayers are with his family, and his colleagues in the Kings County District Attorney’s office.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio & First Lady Chirlane McCray: “The thoughts and prayers of our entire city are with District Attorney Ken Thompson, his family and his loved ones tonight. 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. 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. Tonight we mourn the loss of a champion of reform. Our task now will be to rise each day forward in the spirit Ken lived his life.”
Public Advocate Letitia James: “My deepest sympathies and prayers go out to Lu-Shawn, Kenny, and Kennedy on the loss of a great husband and father, and to all New Yorkers on the loss of a great fighter for justice. District Attorney Ken Thompson was committed to bringing equity to Brooklyn, and to making our borough safer and fairer for all. He stayed true to this commitment until his last moments, and we must all continue his legacy by working for a more just New York.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: “I am profoundly saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson after a battle with cancer. Ken was a dedicated public servant who embodied the highest principles of the law, and his grand presence will be sorely missed.
“A lifelong New Yorker, Ken was known as an effective, aggressive civil rights leader – and a national voice for criminal justice reform. When he took office in 2014, Ken became the first African-American in history to serve as Brooklyn District Attorney. He also served with distinction as a federal prosecutor, working with Loretta Lynch in the Eastern District of New York before founding a law firm devoted to social justice and the fight against discrimination.”
Other who sent in their deepest condolences on the death of Thompson from Brooklyn include State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, City Council Member Vincent Gentile, Congressman Dan Donovan, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Bridge Multicultural Advocacy & Advocacy Project Founder & President Mark Meyer Appel, Friedlander Group CEO Ezra Friedlander and many others.
As a member of the Brooklyn media, Kings County Politics mourns with the rest of the borough and extends our deepest condolences and prayers to Mr. Thompson’s wife and children and his entire family.