Man accused of fatally hitting Oakland County sheriff's deputy charged, denied bond

Christopher Berak, 22, charged

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – A 22-year-old Macomb County man accused of fatally hitting an Oakland County sheriff's deputy on Thanksgiving was arraigned by video Saturday.

Christopher Joseph Berak was charged with first-degree premeditated homicide and murder of a peace officer.

Investigators believe Berak intentionally hit Deputy Eric Overall.

The judge denied bond for Berak, citing that he was on probation.

He has prior convictions for possession of marijuana and resisting officers.

His lawyer said he doesn't believe his client is a flight risk. He also noted that Berak has a history of mental health conditions, and he is under the care of a psychiatrist. 

He is due back in court Dec. 4.

Sheriff holds news conference

Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna held a news conference Friday to update the case.

Early Thursday morning, while many folks slept, Overall was on duty, trying to stop a vehicle fleeing Lapeer County deputies.

"When he was deploying the stop sticks, he was struck by the suspect," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

Investigators insisted the driver intentionally veered his car in Overall's direction, killing him.

Suspect claimed he was God

McKenna said authorities first saw the man suspected of running down Overall at 11:41 p.m. Wednesday, when he pulled up to the Lapeer County Jail in a blue car and parked. Officials said they saw him get out of his car, approach the intercom in the jail lobby and stand there without pushing the button.

Officials said they activated a camera with audio and heard the man saying that he was God and he had come to the jail to free one of his followers.

He then left the jail, got back in his car and drove away.

Two deputies were contacted about the incident as the man turned in to the prison next door, which is a restricted area. Police said the man pulled up to the front and was asked what he was doing.

The man said again that he was God and that he was there to free one of his followers, police said. He said he "has a claim on this land," meaning the prison's land, according to authorities.

During these interactions, the man was on the phone with a Lapeer County 911 operator, officials said. He told the operator a similar story, claiming to be God, and said he was there to remove someone. He claimed it's not fair to have his follower locked up due to a violation of man-made laws that they don't follow, according to police.

Officials said the man got upset that nobody was helping him remove his follower, so he hung up on the operator.

Police pursue man

An armed officer doing a perimeter check at the prison came across the man and told him to sto, but police said the man got in the car and fled the parking lot.

As the car turned on John County Drive, the officers who had been called to the scene said they passed him in the opposite direction and turned around to follow him.

Police said the man turned back into the county jail and stopped when the officers turned on their overhead lights.

Officials got out and tried to make contact with the man, and he told them his follower should be released because it was unfair to hold him in the jail due to a violation of man-made laws.

After the exchange with the officers, police said the man took off again. Deputies followed, but turned off their overhead lights to deescalate the situation, according to McKenna. He said they turned off their lights because of the unstable behavior of the man, believing they might be dealing with someone delusional.

Deputies said they followed the car onto I-69 and activated their overhead lights. The man pulled over on the side of the road and officers approached the car, police said. Police said he locked the doors and started yelling, even threatening to take his seat belt off and kill himself by driving into a tree.

Police said the man put the car in drive and took off again, going west on I-69.

"The entire pursuit was controlled," McKenna said. "There was very little traffic and (he drove at) low speeds."

Officials said the man drove the speed limit and used his blinker when changing lanes. He exited at M-15 and turned left with deputies still in pursuit.

Oakland County deputy hit

Over the radio, the deputies learned an Oakland County Sheriff's Office patrol car was at the intersection of M-15 and Seymore Lake Road to deploy stop sticks. The patrol car was stopped at the intersection, and the Lapeer County deputies fell back when the driver approached, so they could avoid the stop sticks.

As the driver approached the intersection, the Oakland County deputy backed into a grassy area.

"The man tapped his brakes and made almost a 90-degree turn to hit and kill Deputy Overall," McKenna said.

Police said Overall was hit at 12:31 a.m. Thursday.

When the man's car came to a stop, officials approached it and managed to take the man into custody without further incident.

"This was a deliberate act," McKenna said. "There is no doubt in my mind."

Overall was pronounced dead at the hospital, McKenna said.

McKenna said the chase lasted around 30 minutes.

"Ultimately, this man chose to make a deliberate act to kill a deputy, to kill a husband, at the drop of a hat," McKenna said. "It doesn't matter what our patch says. We're all family."

While talking to the 911 operator, the man had mentioned the name of his "follower." That man was an inmate at the Lapeer County Jail who had been there since July. Investigators interviewed him, and he said he hadn't talked to the man in a long time.

McKenna said the Oakland County Sheriff's Office will handle the remainder of the investigation.

The man is expected to be arraigned at 11 a.m. Saturday in Rochester Hills.

Community mourns officer's death

The Oakland County community is grieving after the deputy's unexpected death, and came together for a Thursday night vigil.

Fellow officers, first responders and the community showed up in support of Eric Overall's wife, Sonja Overall.

"He treated everyone with the utmost respect," Sonja Overall said. "Not a single person could ever say anything negative about him because he was just that wonderful. He wore his heart on his sleeve. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for anybody, even the bad guys."

That's why so many, including Bouchard, gathered on Thanksgiving at the fallen deputy's memorial outside the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

"The fact he was a school liaison officer speaks volumes of him as a person," close friend Chery Calcaterra said. "The fact he worked with children all the time, he helped them through their life struggles."

Overall served as the police liaison at Brandon High School for several years. School superintendent Matt Outlaw expressed heartbreak over the loss. 

"Deputy Overall was our police liaison from 2014 through 2016. He was a great man that did so much for the children of this community. We are truly heartbroken by this loss," he said.

"His friends called him E (or) Big E," another close friend, Michael Calcatera, said. "Very inspirational guy. Great guy. Family guy, and he was there for my family when we needed him."

Overall was 50 years old and had served on the police force for 22 years.

"I know my husband is an amazing man," Sonja Overall said.

Overall's public visitation will be Monday from 3-8 p.m. at Mt. Zion Church at 4900 Maybee Road in Independence Township. His funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Doors for the service open at 9:30 a.m.

A private procession for family and Oakland County sheriffs will be after the service.