Hundreds gather for deputy who ‘connected’ with kids
Ortonville — An estimated 500 people turned out Sunday for a candlelight vigil and ribbon-tying memorial for an Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy, killed in the line of duty Thanksgiving Day morning.
Deputy Eric Overall was placing “stop sticks” across M-15 near E. Seymour Lake Road in Brandon Township shortly after midnight in an effort to disable a motorist being pursued by deputies from Lapeer County.
Instead, the suspect, Christopher Berak, 22, drove off the road and struck Overall, who later died from injuries.
Berak, arrested at the scene, was charged Saturday with first-degree premediated homicide and murder of a police officer, both felonies carrying life prison sentences and held at the Oakland County Jail. A probable-cause hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4. Bond was denied for Berak, who is on probation for operating under the influence of marijuana and has a history of mental-heath conditions.
“We had to come out and show our respect and support for Deputy Overall and other officers,” said Dylan Allen of Ortonville, who met Overall three years ago while attending Brandon Township High school, where Overall was the school liaison officer.
“He made Brandon (High) feel safer than normal,” said Allen, as he tied a blue ribbon around a utility pole on Pond Street, behind the sheriff’s Brandon Township substation where Overall was posted. “When I heard he was the deputy who died, it was like losing a friend.”
Area residents surrounded the station about 4 p.m. Sunday, listening to a saxophonist play a mournful “America the Beautiful” and “Star Spangled Banner” before local officials took turns at the microphone, praising the 50-year-old Overall and other deputies for putting their life on the line every day for the community.
One organizer of the vigil, Chris Copenhagen, said she had passed out more than 1,000 blue ribbons, signifying police and the Brandon school color. The ribbons quickly were tied to poles, lamps and businesses throughout the picturesque business district of the village of 1,457 people in northern Oakland County.
“We all love him,” said Copenhagen. “He really connected with the kids at our elementary, middle and high school. He kept our kids safe.”
Copenhagen said Overall helped track down a student who had threatened a “Columbine-type” shooting.
“I used to get bullied when I was younger,” said Copenhagen’s daughter, Courtney, now in ninth grade. “He (Overall) told me not to worry about it and if things got too intense, tell an adult.”
Attendees, some lighting candles as darkness and temperatures fell Sunday, told of how Overall instilled trust in both young and older residents in the township.
Raymond Dubiel, his wife, Heidi and their three children, Josie, Abby, and Jacob, all cupped glowing candles in their hands as the vigil concluded with “Amazing Grace.”
One daughter was too choked up to talk and buried her face in her mother’s jacket.
“I used to talk to him at the (school) football games,” said Dubiel. “He was a very good friend of every family in the community. He was passionate about his job.
Overall’s widow Sonja told reporters at the vigil that her husband had put extra effort in reaching out to youth following the sudden death one of his sons from a previous marriage. The couple just had married in June.
“I can’t say enough about him,” said Sonja Overall “… I feel a little bit robbed. We were supposed to have a long life together.”
Sonja Overall described Overall as loving his job, music — he played guitar — and fishing. She said the community support since his death has “been mind-blowing” and a “godsend” to her and Overall’s family and friends.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Overall’s death, while tragic, was a reminder of the danger that police, firefighters and other first-responders face every day. He said four officers across the nation died last week in on-duty incidents.
“She (Sonja) kissed her husband goodbye that night, never thinking it would be the last one,” said Bouchard, wearing a black band across his own badge with Overall’s badge number “664” across it.
Visitation is scheduled from 3-8 p.m. Monday at the Mt. Zion Church, 4900 Maybee Road, Independence Township. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a private procession for family and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office members.