Kenneth Thompson, the first African-American elected in 2014 to the office of District Attorney in Brooklyn, died on Sunday of cancer, according to a statement released Sunday by his office.
The announcement of his passing comes as a shock, particularly since Thompson announced only five days ago he was diagnosed with cancer and would be taking a leave of absence.
“I’ve dedicated myself and our Office’s resources over the past three years to keeping the people of our great borough safe while strengthening our commitment to reform and improve our criminal justice system… And now I am prepared for another fight. Recently I was diagnosed with cancer,” said Thompson in a statement from his office. “As a man of intense faith, I intend to fight and win the battle against this disease.”
Born and raised in New York City, Thompson was a graduate of New York City public schools, and then went on to graduate magna cum laude from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
He also served as a special assistant to the U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Enforcement in Washington, D.C., and in the General Counsel’s Office at the Treasury. He was part of the team of lawyers and federal agents that investigated the 1993 raid on David Koresh and the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas.
Thompson, was sworn in as the borough’s first African-American district attorney in 2014 after beating longtime incumbent Charles J. Hynes in a bitterly contested Democratic primary. Since that time, Thompson’s office had become a model for prosecutors nationally, holding those who break the law accountable for setting one standard of justice for all and fighting for innocent people who were wrongly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
“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,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “Furthermore, Ken’s commitment to the law and to the well-being of our children and families made our streets fundamentally safer.”
As District Attorney, Thompson successfully prosecuted gunrunners, reformed the practice of low level marijuana arrests and established a groundbreaking, compassionate and smart approach on crime policies, said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in a statement.
Thompson also was known for many bold initiatives he pushed forward, in pursuit of justice as a District Attorney including Begin Again, a program to help those with misdemeanors get a second chance; and his Gun Buy-Back initiative, which encouraged individuals to turn in guns, no questions asked.
Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth Thompson died on Sunday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with his family by his side.
He is survived by his wife of 17 years, Lu-Shawn Thompson, his two children, Kennedy and Kenny, his mother, father, brother and sister.
“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,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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.”
“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,” said Adams.
“From the minute I met Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, I was amazed at his compassion for people, his desire for fairness for all, and his love for Brooklyn,” said Brooklyn Chamber President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura. “We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, children and family. May God watch over him.”
“Today, we lost a father, a leader, and a man of unwavering faith,” said Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson. “Thomson’s contributions to our community will forever have a lasting impact on the many lives he touched as a champion of social justice.”
“In a short time in office, he made a tremendous difference and he will never be forgotten,” said Jeffries.
Article Updated: October 10, 10:50am