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Oakland County honors deputy who died in 2017 car chase

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OAKLAND COUNTY — A year after Oakland County Sheriff’s Dept. Deputy Eric Overall lost his life in a car chase that began in Lapeer, his passing was marked by flags flown at half-staff.

Overall’s suspected killer has yet to go to trial.

A Burton resident at the time of his death, Overall, 50, was struck and killed Thanksgiving morning 2017 by a car reportedly driven by Christopher Berak, 22, of Macomb Township after Overall placed stop sticks at the corner of M-15 and Seymore Lake Road in Brandon Township, south of Ortonville.

Oakland Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard ordered flags lowered at half-staff Friday at Sheriff’s Office buildings in Oakland County and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson requested flags be lowered at all county buildings to mark Overall’s passing.

“November 23rd will always remain a day of heartache and deep emotions for all of us at the Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard. “I know Thanksgiving has also taken on a different meaning for our personnel and Eric’s family. We miss our brother dearly and commit to continue to honor to his legacy and impact he made on this agency and the community he served. He taught us all the mantra of ‘Never Quit’ and we will make sure we ‘Never Quit’ honoring the ultimate sacrifice he made by putting on his uniform that day.

Berak reportedly showed up at the Lapeer County Jail just before midnight Thanksgiving Eve 2017, claiming to be God and saying his was there to get one of his sons or followers. According to deputies, Berak drove off in his Saturn Ion to the nearby Thumb Correctional Facility, where he reportedly claimed to be god and said he had a claim to their land, before driving back to the county jail.

That led to a 22-mile car chase that Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. deputies said never exceeded posted speed limits. At the time, Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna, noting that Berak had stopped at every stop sign and signaled his turns, said Berak appeared to be a drunk trying to get home before being arrested so his vehicle wouldn’t be towed.

The chase and Overland’s death led McKenna to review Lapeer County’s pursuit policy.

South of Ortonville, however, the chase turned deadly. McKenna said deputies reported Berak appeared to make a deliberate right turn on M-15 at Seymore Lake Road, driving Overall off the shoulder of the road and into a swamp. Bouchard said, “Deputy Overall succumbed to his injuries after being rushed to the hospital.”

Two days later, Berak was arraigned after being charged with first-degree premeditated homicide and murder of a police officer. He was bound over for trial in March after he was found competent to stand trial at the State Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti.

Paul Walton, Oakland County’s chief assistant prosecutor, said Berak is set for a pre-trial conference in February and a trial in April. He predicted the trial will take about 10 days and that it will be “a battle of the experts.”

Walton said that while state experts in Ypsilanti found Berak competent to stand trial, he expects Berak’s defense attorney, Leo Bowman, will find experts to challenge that.

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