Kenneth Thompson, the first black district attorney of Brooklyn and a voice for racial justice at a moment of tension between law enforcement and minority communities, died of cancer at 50, the New York Times reports. Thompson was elected in 2013 after campaigning on a platform of reform and racial justice. He unseated Charles Hynes, a fellow Democrat and a troubled incumbent who had served more than 20 years. A former federal prosecutor, Thompson earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most progressive district attorneys, creating an internal unit that reviewed questionable convictions and not prosecuting most low-level marijuana arrests.
He won a conviction of Peter Liang, a former New York City police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in a housing project stairwell in 2014. Thompson did not prison time for Liang, which enraged Gurley’s family and led to protests. Thompson was the son of a police officer. He graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and New York University School of Law. New York Andrew Cuomo will name a replacement for Thompson, who would have faced re-election next year. “A lifelong New Yorker, Ken was known as an effective, aggressive civil rights leader — and a national voice for criminal justice reform,” Cuomo said