By Scott Malone
CLAYTON Mo. (Reuters) - The grand jury considering whether to charge a white Missouri police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen in August appears to be approaching the end of its process, lawyers for the family said on Thursday.
A private pathologist hired by the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown was to testify on Thursday after the grand jury, which meets in secret, asked to hear from him and may be one of its final witnesses, attorney Anthony Gray said.
"We are probably reaching the end of the road as it relates to witnesses," Gray said outside the Clayton County courthouse where the grand jury is meeting.
A spokesman for the county prosecutor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials have previously said the grand jury was expected to reach a decision this month on whether to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9.
The shooting set off weeks of racially charged protests in the predominantly black city of Ferguson, which has a mostly white police force.
Residents and officials are bracing for a possible new wave of unrest if the grand jury decides Wilson should not face a trial on criminal charges.
"The Brown family sends a passionate plea this morning to law enforcement and to those that support justice for Mike Brown Jr. to allow cooler heads to prevail in times of adversity," Gray said.
Witness accounts of the shooting have conflicted: some described a struggle between Brown and Wilson and others said Brown put his hands up.
Brown was shot at least six times, twice in the head, on a residential street where he lived, according to the private pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden. Brown's family hired Baden in part to try to determine whether Brown was trying to surrender when he was shot.
"There is evidence that Michael Brown had his hands up, there is no doubt about that ... forensic evidence," said Benjamin Crump, another family lawyer.
The official autopsy determined Brown was shot at close range and at least once in the hand, according to a copy obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
As the area braces for protests, businesses on the Ferguson street that saw the heaviest rioting following the shooting have boarded up their windows.
(Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Doina Chiacu)