Slain Oakland Co. deputy ‘never quit’ on passions
Independence Township — More than 2,000 mourners showed up Tuesday morning to pay final respects to an Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty on Thanksgiving Day.
Eric Brian Overall, 50, was run over by a motorist being pursued by Lapeer County Sheriff’s deputies about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
Overall had just placed “stop sticks” across M-15 near E. Seymour Lake Road in an effort to disable a vehicle driven by Christopher Berak, 22, of Macomb County. Berak is facing charges of first-degree premeditated homicide and murder of a police officer — both felonies carrying life prison sentences.
Friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers began showing up at Mt. Zion Church on Maybee well in advance of the opening of doors at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
A “Celebration for Life” service for Overall began with hundreds of uniformed police from Michigan and beyond quietly filling into the church before a traditional bagpipe procession.
Three large video screens projected slides of Overall celebrating backyard barbecues, birthdays, holidays and a beach vacation with family and his wife, Sonja. His beloved electric guitar was prominently propped up on a stage behind photo displays, floral arrangements and a coffin draped with an American flag.
“This is incredibly difficult for all of us,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, the first of several people to offer thoughts about the 22-year departmental veteran. “There is no worse job for a sheriff or (police) chief on a treasure lost too soon. And he was a treasure.
“He had a huge heart, a big smile but tough when necessary. … He was dedicated, reliable and backup you could count on.
“It’s impossible to make sense out of something senseless, but he was doing what defined him: dying while trying to make sure no one else got hurt. That is the embodiment of a hero.”
Bouchard and Overall’s relatives spoke of the deputy’s “mantra” of “never quit” no matter what challenges or obstacles come up.
Sonja Overall, who married her husband in June, told of his love for fishing “for the big ones in Florida or throwing in a line in the reservoir near our home.” Overall also had a passion for music “rock, country, blues, playing his guitar.”
“We had planned to move to Florida so he could spend his days as a boating captain on the water,” she said.
Cameron, one of Overall’s sons from a previous marriage, died three years ago, his wife said. And after the death, he became even more passionate about his job as a school liaison officer.
“He had a way with kids — generous, compassionate — I couldn’t be more proud to be able to call him him husband,” said Sonja, recalling his advice to “weather every storm, keep on keeping on, and, of course, never quit.”
Bouchard and others noted Overall’s death was indicative of the dangers police, fire fighters and other first responders, face every day on the job.
Many of those attending let out a collective gasp when a video was projected on the screens of a smiling Overall, holding his electric guitar and staring into the camera.
“Hope everyone is well,” said Eric Overall in the video recording before launching into an ethereal guitar solo of a Pink Floyd song.
“I’m doing good. Hope you enjoy this (music). Rock on. Never quit. Have a good week and take care.”
The Rev. Jim Combs quoted a Biblical scripture of “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend.”
A formal flag folding ceremony, in which the flag was presented to Sonja, was part of the conclusion of the 90-minute service.
A following private funeral procession consisted of family and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office vehicles.
The family has said Overall’s remains will be scattered in the ocean that he loved.
A GoFundMe account has been established in Overall’s memory and to help the family with future expenses. As of Tuesday, it had raised more than $62,500.