Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson died yesterday after what his family described as a “hard fought battle with cancer.”
Thompson’s family made the announcement last night. The District Attorney was 50 years old. Thompson is survived by his wife of 17 years, Lu-Shawn Thompson, and his two children, Kennedy and Kenny.
Only last week, Thompson had announced that he was stepping down temporarily to continue cancer treatment. His chief assistant, Eric Gonzalez, is currently running the District Attorney’s office.
Ken Thompson was Brooklyn’s first African-American District Attorney, taking office in 2014. He came from a family of pathbreakers — Thompson’s mother, Clara Thompson, was one of the first female police officers in New York City, the Thompson family said.
A New York City native, Thompson attended local public schools and then graduated magna cum laude from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He earned his law degree at NYU Law School.
Thompson campaigned for the seat of Brooklyn District Attorney on a promise to restore confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system.
As District Attorney, he established a Conviction Review Unit which, in three years, “moved to vacate or support the dismissal of the convictions of 21 people who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other offenses,” Thompson’s office said. He also implemented a policy not to prosecute low-level marijuana possession arrests, in order to “spare young people from the burden of a criminal record.”
Prior to being elected District Attorney, Thompson served as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, where he was a member of the team that successfully prosecuted former NYPD Officer Justin Volpe in the 1997 beating and torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
Thompson also served as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Enforcement in Washington, DC, and in the General Counsel’s Office at the Treasury, his office said.
Before holding elected office, Thompson co-founded his own law firm, representing victims of discrimination due to pregnancy status, race, gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation.
Thompson’s pre-occupation with justice had a wide berth. His family noted that he worked with members of Congress and the clergy to convince the U.S. Department of Justice to reinvestigate the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi.
Details of the District Attorney’s funeral arrangements will be announced, his family said.