New York's Leaders Mourn Ken Thompson, Fallen Kings County DA

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The late Ken Thompson

Prominent New Yorkers and elected officials reacted with shock and sorrow to the announcement Sunday that Ken Thompson, the first Black district attorney in Kings county, had lost his battle with cancer.

“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," New York governor, Andrew Cuomo said.

“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.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the Thompson family, friends and neighbors, and the entire Brooklyn community at this difficult time."

On Monday flags were lowered to half staff on the governor's order.

Shortly after the announcement of Thompson's death, the Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network tweeted: "Deeply saddened at the news of the passing of Ken Thompson. He had Thurgood Marshall like passion for justice. RIP."

In a joint statement New York mayor Bill de Blasio and the City's first lady said: "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."

“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," U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus leadership and the House Judiciary Committee, said.

"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.”

"I am devastated to learn of the death of my dear friend and colleague, Ken Thompson," said Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General.

"Ken was a wonderful and committed public servant. In less than three years as District Attorney, Ken had an indelible impact on Brooklyn, our city, and our criminal justice system. Ken practiced law with a sense of fairness and respect for everyone in the courtroom and cared deeply and fought hard to advance the cause of civil rights. As an elected official, Ken embodied the highest ideals of public service, always doing what he believed was right, not just what was popular. Ken Thompson's time in public office will shine as an example to those of us in law enforcement for years to come. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time."

“I was privileged to work with Ken, first in his capacity as a gifted courtroom advocate, and subsequently during his too-brief tenure as a public servant committed to advancing public safety and justice reform for the People of Kings County. Ken and I began as courtroom adversaries but became friends. I will truly miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Lu-Shawn, the Thompson family, and our partners in Brooklyn," said Cyrus R. Vance, the New York county district attorney.

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said: "I am saddened beyond words to hear of the tragic passing of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. Ken was a courageous fighter for civil rights and a leader in the battle to bring justice -- however long deferred -- to people who were unjustly imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit. As a former federal prosecutor and a pioneering Brooklyn District Attorney, he championed the cause of equal justice for all. But Ken was not only passionate about the rule of law, he was devoted to his wife and two children. He was a friend to me, as he was to many, and he will be greatly missed. I offer my deepest condolences to his loved ones and to the extended Brooklyn DA family at this difficult time."

U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez said: “All of us in Brooklyn and New York are praying for Ken’s family and all those who knew and loved him. Our borough and our city are better places because of Ken’s steadfast work to advance justice. His contributions in areas like reducing gun violence and the ‘Begin Again’ initiative made our city safer and our justice system fairer. We will always remember the accomplishments he made. I hope the progress he helped drive forward during his life is a comfort to his family.”

New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, said, "I am shocked, stunned and saddened by this sudden lost. Anyone who looks back at his entire body of work will find a successful and impressive man who was committed to social justice; 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, coworkers and all who was touched by his life or work.

"There are no adequate words I can offer that can come close to soothing the wound that comes from losing a loved one. His death will leave a permanent void. I have no doubt that in the coming weeks and months there will be many occasions where we celebrate his life and work. I pray that God grants his family and friends strength in this period of mourning."

This is what King's county Chief Assistant District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said of Thompson: "He was a giant among those seeking to reform the criminal justice system and we are all privileged to have worked under his transformative leadership these past three years.

In that short period, he 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. 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.

The executive team and I are committed to leading the Office and carrying out DA Thompson's vision and initiatives."

Frank Seddio, Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Executive Committee, said: "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."

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