Credit: Kings County District Attorney's Office

New York City is in a state of shock yet again.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken P. Thompson, 50, died Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, after battling cancer for several months—unknown to the general public. At the time of his death, Thompson’s family was by his side. 

“With a heavy heart, the family of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that the District Attorney died today after a hard fought battle with cancer,” the statement said.

Brooklyn Chief Assistant District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement released Sunday night that he was privileged to work with Thompson and plans to continue his initiatives.

“[Thompson] transformed the office into a model urban prosecutor’s office, with a mandate to do justice and treat everyone and every case fairly and with utmost integrity,” Gonzalez said. “Among his many initiatives, he created a model for correcting wrongful convictions, instituted a marijuana policy that would later be replicated citywide and started a summons forgiveness program that would also be instituted in several other jurisdictions. Our sincere prayers are with his wife, children and loved ones. May he rest in peace, knowing that he has made Brooklyn and New York City a better place.”

Thompson announced five days before his death that he had cancer and would temporarily step down from his post to battle the illness.

Taking office in 2014, defeating longtime former Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, making Thompson the  first challenger to defeat a sitting District Attorney in Brooklyn since 1911.

Thompson was Brooklyn’s first African-American district attorney. He leaves behind his wife, Lu-Shawn, two children ages, 9 and 12, and his mother and father.

The Amsterdam News has announced that Thompson will be memorialized at his Christian Cultural Center (12020 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn) this weekend. His wake will be Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and his funeral service will be held the next day, Saturday, Oct. 15.

State Senator Kevin Parker was audibly shocked when he spoke to the Amsterdam News just a couple of hours after the announcement of Thompson’s passing.

“My heart reaches out to the family of Ken Thompson as they prepare for his internment Saturday,” said Parker. “I know how sad a time this must be and so I send my heartfelt condolences to his bereaved wife, children, extended family and staff at the DA’s office. May the good work he has done and God’s grace give them strength and peace.”

“Let’s celebrate an amazing life!” declared 57th Assembly District Leader Olanike Alibi in announcing a “Special Community Send-Off” for  Thompson Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sanders Studios NYC, 521-525 Waverly Ave., Brooklyn.

Alibi told the Amsterdam News, “Ken was my neighbor, and before becoming district attorney, he was a great supporter when I opted to run for office and donated to several of my campaigns. I was impressed with Ken’s personal and professional accomplishments and his love for the law, but what is more—justice. He will be missed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

She noted that Thompson’s “work included Begin Again, overturning wrongful 

convictions, justice for Emmett Till, Abner Louima, Nafissatou Diallo and defending several elected officials  who were arrested after protesting the proposed closure of local firehouses.”

Alibi continued, “Ken had a very large heart. One of my last conversations with Ken by phone was about  the vicious murder of Chanel Petro-Nixon, and how proud he was to be able to secure an  indictment of her alleged murderer. My last sighting of Ken was at our local supermarket, Key Food in Clinton Hill. We were in the produce section, and there was Ken encouraging me to continue to fight the good fight, and he inspired me to look forward to the future. He will be missed, but I’m grateful to have known him. May he rest in peace.”

“Ken Thompson’s untimely death is both shocking and sad,” said Marquez Claxton. The retired NYPD detective and director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance told the Amsterdam News that he had known the late DA since 1992. “Ken Thompson, with all of his outstanding qualifications and innovative thinking was poised to be the most impactful and consequential district attorney ever. Ken was a vanguard born of a pioneer. His mother, Clara, was one of the first Black women to join the NYPD, and she served as a mentor, an honest historian, advocate and mother figure to hundreds of us who subsequently joined the NYPD.  She has always been a blunt realist and I’m sure that Ken inherited that from her. Whether you understood or agreed with Ken Thompson’s decisions or not, he was a man of honor and integrity. Because of how he lived and what he achieved, friends and foes collectively mourn his sudden passing and offer condolences to his family.”

City Councilwoman Inez Barron told the paper that Thompson’s passing was, “shocking, and unexpected, and I am keeping his family in my prayers.”

Thompson was widely praised all-around for securing 21 exonerations in two years with his extensive Conviction Review Unit, his unprecedented district attorney/community-focused town hall meetings and his Begin Again program, which enabled hundreds of people to be released from the scourge of life-damaging warrants. He was heavily criticized, however, this past summer when he recommended no jail time for officer Peter Liang, who he indicted and got a manslaughter conviction for the shooting death of young father Akai Gurley. The Gurley family has as yet declined to comment.

“While we had our differences with him and expressed that, Inez and I are sensitive to what his family is experiencing,” said Assemblyman Charles Barron. “He was a father to two small children, a husband, and a son—and we send our heartfelt condolences to his family.”

Barron added, “It is a shame, though, that the sharks are circling before he has even been buried. This is the time when his family is in mourning, and people should not be engaging in political opportunism.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton will be speaking at Saturday’s funeral. The president of the National Action Network told the Amsterdam News, “NAN and I are saddened by our friend Ken Thompson’s departure, but we will work to continue his legacy around key issues he championed in criminal justice reform. I knew him since his days of private practice and he had a Thurgood Marshall-like passion for justice.”

City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo said, “My thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the friends and family of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, whose sudden passing is an incredible loss to our entire community.”

She added, “We lost an amazing member of our Brooklyn family. Ken was passionate about the people of Brooklyn, a life-long leader for justice and a friend to so many in our community.”

Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all flags at half-staff in honor of Thompson.

“I am profoundly saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson after a battle with cancer,” Cuomo said. “Ken was a dedicated public servant who embodied the highest principles of the law, and his grand presence will be sorely missed.”
De Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, said in a joint statement that the city was fortunate to have him as a district attorney and creating 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,” they said. 
Other district attorneys in the city also gave their condolences. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said he was privileged to work with Thompson, first in the courtroom and subsequently as a public servant.

“Ken and I began as courtroom adversaries but became friends,” he said. “I will truly miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Lu-Shawn, the Thompson family and our partners in Brooklyn.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said, “Ken Thompson was a dedicated public servant, and I was privileged to learn much from him during the last year while we served together as district attorneys in the City of New York. I shall forever be grateful to him for his counsel, friendship and words of wisdom. May God bless him and his family in this time of sorrow, and may his family find some comfort in his splendid legacy.”

Assemblymember Michael Blake called Thompson “an exceptional public servant.”

Blake added, “He would always ask me how was I doing, encourage me as a Black man in politics, discuss new ideas for criminal justice reform, remind me of his love for Brooklyn and the Bronx and to never forget that his wife’s family are our constituents so always stay nice.”

Councilmember Jumaane Williams, a friend to Thompson said he was shocked and stunned at his passing. “Anyone who looks back at his entire body of work will find a successful and impressive man who was committed to social justice,” Williams said. “From seeking justice for Abner Louima to exonerating dozens of innocent men, he has proven his resolve to equity. My prayers for peace and comfort go out to his family, friends, co-workers and all who was touched by his life or work.”