EAST NEW YORK — Hundreds of family, friends and community members gathered at the Christian Cultural Center on Flatlands Avenue Friday afternoon to mourn the loss of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
Thompson, 50, a progressive reformer who unseated 20-year incumbent Charles Hynes, died just days after announcing he would be taking time off to battle cancer. The lawyer, advocate and father of two was remembered as a man of deep conviction.
Bed-Stuy resident Karine Williams Barnwell, 70, had never met Thompson, but described him as a "disciple of justice" and said she was so inspired by his work that she decided to attend the wake and pay her respects.
"His time was short as DA, but it definitely had an impact," Williams Barnwell said. "A positive, long lasting impact."
A projector in the sanctuary flashed pictures of Thompson throughout his life — with his wife on vacation, as a young man wearing an anti-apartheid T-shirt, holding his young daughter — while mourners slowly filed past his open casket.
A white floral arrangement was placed near his feet and a little further to the right a placard with a picture of the DA, which read "A People's Prosecutor".
Lawyer Benjamin Brafman, who was an adversary of Thompson in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, said they became friends afterwards.
"[He was] honorable and fair," Brafman said. "I was stunned [by his death]. I think he was trying to run a very good office."
Brooklyn resident Moe Mpela, 46, said he was inspired by Thompson's decision to stop prosecuting people caught with low levels of marijuana.
"We have to be thankful of that," Mpela said, "focusing on where the DA should be — hardcore crimes."
He added that he also did not know Thompson but was inspired to attend his wake.
"I don't come to funerals, but for him I had to make an exemption."
Only a handful of close family and friends knew of Thompson's diagnosis.
He passed away at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital surrounded by his family.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was weighing his options about whether he would appoint a new DA or allow Thompson's chief assistant, Eric Gonzalez, to continue leading the office.