Mental review ordered for driver in deputy’s death

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Clarkston — A district judge ordered a mental review Monday for a Macomb County man who is charged with running over and killing an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy early Thanksgiving Day morning.

Christopher Berak, 22, is charged with first-degree premeditated homicide and murder of a police officer in the death of Deputy Eric Overall, 50, after a crash about 12:30 a.m. Nov. 23.

On Nov. 22, about an hour before the deadly crash, Berak had gone to the Lapeer County Jail and adjacent Thumb Correctional facility and described himself to workers as “God” with the intent to break out one of his “sons” incarcerated inside.

He was stopped briefly, then pursued for 22 miles after telling deputies during the stop that he planned to commit suicide by running his car into a tree.

“After meetings with my client, I feel it warrants a competency evaluation,” Berak’s attorney, Stephen Rabaut, told Judge Joseph G. Fabrizio of Independence Township 52-2 District Court.

Fabrizio ordered Berak to be sent to the state Forensic Center in Ypsilanti for up to 60 days to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial and scheduled a review hearing for Feb. 12.

Berak sat quietly during the brief hearing. Both Rabaut and assistant prosecutor David Hutson declined comment afterward.

While Berak refused deputies’ orders on Nov. 23 to open his car door or exit the vehicle, he drove within speed limits at all times and obeyed all driving laws, including signaling for lane changes, deputies reported.

Alerted that Berak was headed into Oakland County, Overall had tossed “stop sticks” across southbound M-15 near E. Seymour Lake Road to disable Berak’s approaching vehicle. Investigators said Berak deliberately left the roadway and steered at Overall, who was standing on the road’s shoulder, striking and killing him.

Berak was arrested without further incident at the scene.

Overall, who is survived by a wife, Sonja, and an adult son, was a respected 22-year veteran of the department. He had received commendations for saving the life of a high school student and helping to track down a student who had posted internet threats to kill students and teachers at another school.

Sonja Overall was in a front row of the small courtroom Monday, staring at Berak, who was seated just a few feet away. As Berak scanned faces in the courtroom, it appeared their eyes met briefly before he glanced away.

Following Overall’s death, hundreds of people attended a candelight vigil outside the sheriff’s substation in Ortonville, where Overall was assigned. He was the first Oakland County sheriff’s deputy to die in the line of duty in 80 years.

Berak, who has been jailed without bond, has past convictions for marijuana possession and fleeing and eluding a police officer. Berak, a pizzeria worker who lives with his parents, faces up to life in prison if convicted of either felony charge in Overall’s death.

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