Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson Dies At 50: Family

Thompson's death comes days after he announced a leave of absence to battle cancer

What to Know

  • Brooklyn D.A. Ken Thompson died Sunday after a battle with cancer, his family announced.
  • Thompson, who was elected in 2013, announced a leave of absence to battle the ailment on Tuesday.
  • Thompson has been credited with setting up a review board that has helped free 21 people wrongly convicted of murder and other crimes

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson died Sunday after a battle with cancer, his family announced.

He was 50 years old. 

Thompson's death comes days after he took a leave of absence from the Kings County District Attorney's Office to battle his ailment. In a statement Tuesday, Thompson didn't specify what type of cancer he had or any timeframe for treatments.

His family said in a statement Sunday that he was surrounded by loved ones when he died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was "profoundly saddened" to learn of Thompson's death and said he was directing all flags to fly at half staff on Monday "as a tribute to Ken's enduring legacy."

"A lifelong New Yorker, Ken was known as an effective, aggressive civil rights leader -- and anational voice for criminal justice reform," Cuomo said in a statement.

The office has been led by Chief Assistant Eric Gonzalez since Thompson announced his leave of absence. 

Thompson took office in January 2014 after defeating Charles Hynes, who had been the district attorney for more than 20 years. He was the first African American to be elected as Brooklyn's district attorney. 

Thompson's also worked as a former federal prosecutor, where he prosecuted the case against a police officer accused in the 1997 assault of Abner Louima in a precinct bathroom.

He also spent some time in private practice, where he represented Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in 2011.

His family said he also worked with the U.S. Congrss to get the Justice Department to reinvestigate the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi..

As prosecutor, Thompson expanded an initiative in the office that reviews cases for potential wrongful convictions. In the last three years, 21 people who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other crimes saw their convictions vacated or dropped. 

Among his high-profile prosecutions in office has been that of Peter Liang, an NYPD officer who was tried in the death of an unarmed black man in a housing project stairwell. Liang was found guilty of manslaughter, but a judge downgraded it to criminally negligent homicide. Thompson decided against seeking prison time in sentencing.

Thompson was the son of one of the first female NYPD officers and a graduate of New York City public schoools. He graduated magna cum laude from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and earned his law degree from NYU Law School. 

Thompson his survived by his wife, Lu-Shawn Thompson; two children, Kennedy and Kenny; his mother; father; brother; and sister. 

Funeral arrangements haven't been announced. 

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