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"He did what he did because he cared immensely," said Sheriff Michael Bouchard about the tragic death of Deputy Eric Overall, who made a big impact with students as a school resource officer.

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Independence Township — Eric Brian Overall, an Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty on Thanksgiving morning, cared about important things.

He cherished his family and always had an affinity for young people in trouble with the law, family members said. When he had to escort children to detention, he would put his arm around them and pass on words of wisdom to try to change their paths. Following the sudden death of one of his sons, his siblings said, he reached out to youth even more.

“He identified with the kids,” said his older sister, Sue Overall. “He’d always be the one who’d say, ‘Hey, get your act together.’”

He had a special compassion for kids he came in contact with, added his older brother, Brett Overall.

“He would say: ‘All these kids want it to be connected,’” Overall said. “We’ve heard from so many people who told us if it weren’t for him, they’re kids wouldn’t be alive.”

The Overall siblings were among family, friends and scores of police who gathered at Mount Zion Church in northern Oakland County on Monday to pay their respects to Overall. He was 50.

Overall died after a motorist who was being pursued by deputies in Lapeer County struck him as he was placing “stop sticks” across M-15 near East Seymour Lake Road in Brandon Township in an effort to stop the driver.

Christopher Berak, 22, was arrested at the scene and charged Saturday with first-degree premediated homicide and murder of a police officer — both felonies carrying life prison sentences. He was being 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.

Overall was the first deputy sheriff to be killed in Oakland County in the line of duty in 80 years, according to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who was among the dignitaries who came to the visitation.

“I was a prosecutor for 19 years and represented this (sheriff’s) department, and got to know a lot of them,” Patterson said. “I understand he was a dedicated young man. We’re all taking it pretty hard.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said it was so difficult because “Eric was one of those kinds of people who did what he did because he cared immensely.”

“He had been a school resource officer for us for years, and the stories are just pouring out with how many kids were touched and how many lives he made a difference in,” said Bouchard, pointing to a student whose life, he said, Overall saved and now was getting ready to graduate from the University of Michigan.

“We’re hearing all these stories of all these kids saying he was a father to me, he was a mentor to me. On so many levels he was that kind of person, and obviously that spills over into his family and to the other deputies.

“When the other deputies were having difficult moments, he was the one who would try to lighten the mood and buoy them up,” Bouchard said. “It’s a tough moment. A number of his partners and co-workers of the midnight shift said he would much rather have been killed in this tragedy than have that car continue down the road and broadside a family going to Thanksgiving.

“It’s uplifting to have all the people turn out and have the emotional support and prayer support that’s real important, I think, for the extended family and the Sheriff’s Office. For me it’s kinda like you’re the dad and your kids are hurting. You’re not really sure how you can make it better.”

At the church, visitors stood in line to approach Overall’s casket, which was draped in an American flag and flanked by two Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard members. Nearby was a portrait of him with a fishing rod and guitar, representing some of his hobbies. Overall recently married a second time, and was planning to retire soon and spend his days fishing with his buddies.

“Whenever you needed anything, he was always there, no questions asked,” said Steven Erkins, a retired sheriff’s deputy who worked with Overall. “As a co-worker and friend, he was phenomenal. And he was a great cop, too.”

Overall’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a private procession for family and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office members. He will be cremated and his ashes spread in the ocean near Florida, family members said.

KKozlowski@detroitnews.com

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