Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge mourns loss of Ken Thompson

Political leaders share memories of Brooklyn D.A.

October 11, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The late Ken Thompson (center) was praised by leaders of the Bay Ridge Democrats as a fierce civil rights leader. Pictured with Thompson are Andrew Gounardes, Justin Brannan, David Marangio and Fred Leopold-Hooke (left to right). Photo courtesy of Bay Ridge Democrats
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Describing him as “a dear friend of our club,” leaders of the Bay Ridge Democrats political organization mourned the death of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson by sharing memories of their encounters with the borough’s chief law enforcement officer.

“The Bay Ridge Democrats are in a daze since learning about the untimely passing of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson,” club leaders said in a statement.

Thompson, who was elected to the post of district attorney for Kings County in 2013, died of cancer on Oct. 9. He was 50 years old. He was the first African-American to serve as Brooklyn DA.

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MORE: Brooklyn public officials pay tribute to Kenneth Thompson

The Bay Ridge Democrats Club was one of the first political organizations in Brooklyn to endorse Thompson’s run for DA.

The move raised eyebrows. Charles Hynes, the incumbent who had been Brooklyn district attorney since 1989, lived in Bay Ridge.

But club members were impressed by Thompson when he came to speak at one of their meetings.

“By the time we met Ken when he was running for DA, he had already cemented his name as a fearless civil rights leader and staunch advocate for criminal justice reform. At first, Ken may have been surprised that a Democratic club from the same neighborhood as the incumbent had invited him to speak. Then he realized how much we had in common,” club founder Justin Brannan said. 

“Ken spoke deliberately but compassionately, with the measured and self-assured cadence of someone who knew the importance of choosing his words carefully. But what struck us the most was how humble he was. Here was a guy who, among so many other things, had successfully lobbied the Justice Department to reopen the long-suppressed investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, in the back room of a Bay Ridge diner, asking for our support,” Brannan recalled. 

Brannan, a special assistant to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, said he felt Thompson’s death personally. “His sudden passing has really hit me hard. So young. My dad was 53 when he died. Ken was 50. It’s just terrible,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Heartfelt tributes to Thompson also poured in from Bay Ridge elected officials and business leaders.

U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) served as Staten Island district attorney from 2004 to 2015. “I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. Ken was a community leader and passionate about criminal justice, and his time was cut tragically short. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Brooklyn community,” he said.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) called Thompson “a tremendous individual,” and said he was also an exemplary district attorney and family man.

“A pioneer as the first African-American Brooklyn DA and a fighter for racial justice and with a strong commitment and dedication to criminal justice reform, Ken will be greatly missed by all of us in this city. May he rest in peace and please keep Ken and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time,” Gentile said.

Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, also shared his fond memories of Thompson. “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,” Scissura said. “We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, children and family.”

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