John Conyers, Jr.
John Conyers, Jr. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)

Three lawmakers have called upon Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to take a larger role in investigating the shooting death of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Missouri.

Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., wrote a letter Monday asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate any pattern or practice of police misconduct of the Ferguson Police Department.

A Ferguson officer fatally shot Michael Brown, 18, during an altercation Saturday. One eyewitness said that several shots hit Brown as he attempted to flee police with his hands in the air, the lawmakers wrote.

“More broadly, press reports suggest that Mr. Brown’s shooting may be symptomatic of larger racial tensions in Ferguson,” the lawmakers wrote.

Protests over the shooting have resulted in altercations with police dressed in riot gear using tear gas.

Holder already has said the shooting “deserves a fulsome review.” The FBI and attorneys from the department’s Civil Rights Division would investigate the shooting along with the St. Louis County Police Department, Holder said.

“The federal investigation will supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities,” Holder said in a statement Monday. “At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right.”

The lawmakers ask for more. They point out that the NAACP filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis County police with allegations of racial profiling in the county.

“Only the federal government has the resources, the experience, and the full independence to give this case the close scrutiny that the citizens of Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area deserve,” the lawmakers wrote.

Contact Todd Ruger at truger@alm.com. On Twitter: @ToddRuger.