Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez credits his upbringing in the borough for his push to be prosecutor

The man who oversees justice in Brooklyn is proud of his Hispanic heritage and is using his experiences to help others.

News 12 Staff

Oct 13, 2020, 2:55 AM

Updated 1,315 days ago

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The man who oversees justice in Brooklyn is proud of his Hispanic heritage and is using his experiences to help others.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez grew up in the borough and says his upbringing pushed him on the path to be a prosecutor.
College wasn't on Gonzalez’s mind at one point growing up in Williamsburg and East New York, but the head prosecutor managed to make it all the way to law school.
"My lens by which I view my identity comes from growing up as a Puerto Rican man in Brooklyn during a really incredibly difficult time, and thinking that I wanted to make it better, and I thought I could do that by joining a prosecutor's office," Gonzalez says.
But the path to get there wasn't easy.
"When I grew up, there were very few role models, and a role model for myself was my mom, single mom for most of my life, but working very hard to make it better for me," Gonzalez says.
When former District Attorney Kenneth Thompson died in 2016, Gonzalez took over as acting district attorney until he could run for election. The win, he says, probably surprised many.
“A lot of people, quite frankly, didn't' think that in Brooklyn you could elect a person of Latino heritage. It had never been done before on a borough-wide basis," Gonzalez says.
As D.A., he has been on a mission to bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities of color. Gonzalez set up an immigration affairs unit and successfully barred Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from courthouses.
"ICE was coming in and making arrests in the courthouse. That included arresting people who were defendants, but it also meant on some occasions, arresting people who were coming in as victims or witnesses in cases, further chilling the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities," Gonzalez says.
Gonzalez helped to vacate sentences for at least 28 wrongly incarcerated people, a mission he says he will continue during his term.


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