Driver 'very sorry,' gets life for Oakland deputy's death

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — A Macomb Township pizza deliveryman was sentenced Tuesday to mandatory life in prison without parole for striking and killing an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy with his car on Thanksgiving Day 2017.

A few minutes before he was sentenced by Oakland County Circuit Judge Leo Bowman to spend the rest of his life behind bars, Christopher Berak, 24, apologized to the family of Eric Overall, who died in the early morning hours of Nov. 23, 2017.

Christopher Berak

“I’m very sorry for what I did to the family and hope they are all doing OK,” Berak, said after Bowman asked if he had anything to say before he was sentenced.

Berak stood stoically and expressed no emotion during the half-hour sentencing Tuesday. As he was led out of the courtroom he glanced briefly at those in the courtroom, largely comprised of family and friends of Overall.

A jury deliberated for eight hours over two days before finding Berak guilty Nov. 1 in the death of Overall, 50, a 22-year police veteran. Overall was attempting to lay stop sticks across M-15 near Seymour Lake Road in Brandon Township in an effort to disable Berak’s vehicle, which was being pursued by Lapeer County deputies.

Relatives of both Berak and Overall filled the courtroom Tuesday under the watchful eyes of 14 Oakland County sheriff’s deputies.

 Among the family members was Overall’s widow, Sonja Overall, and an adult son, Kenneth.

Sonja Overall, far left, is consoled by family members at the end of the memorial service for her husband, Oakland County sheriff's deputy Eric Overall, on Nov. 28, 2017 in Independence Township.

Sonja Overall recalled hugging her husband for the last time that night before he left for work, not knowing it would be the last time she would see him alive.

“I’m just glad this is finally over,” she told reporters outside the courtroom. “I’ve been in and out of court for two years — even though I knew what the sentence would be.”

Asked for her reaction to Berak’s apology, she shrugged and said: “No reaction."

“I feel bad for his family … it has destroyed them as it has mine,” she said.

Kenneth Overall said for him, Thanksgiving "is a day we will never forget. ..."

Berak’s parents, who had been in court throughout all the proceedings, left the courthouse immediately after the sentencing, as did Berak’s attorney, Stephen Rabaut.

Deputy Eric Overall

During their deliberations, the jurors asked to review patrol car videos that showed Overall being struck by Berak’s Saturn as the deputy was attempting to disable the oncoming vehicle.

Rabaut had previously described Berak as a “troubled young man” but said Overall’s death was “strictly accidental” and a “reflex action” rather than anything planned or intentional. Jurors had been advised by Bowman they could consider lesser offenses of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Trial testimony revealed that in the three hours before the fatal incident, Berak had smoked marijuana with a co-worker, been ticketed for speeding in Macomb County and encountered Lapeer County deputies after showing up at that county’s jail claiming to be God and demanding to see one of his sons.

When deputies there pulled Berak over, he refused to unlock or exit his vehicle, threatened to run his car into a tree and then drove off, leading several patrol cars into Oakland County. Rabaut said during the pursuit, his client drove responsibly, stayed in his lane and did not exceed the speed limit.

Assistant prosecuting attorney Kenneth Frazee played cell phone recordings and displayed texts for jurors in which Berak boasted of being “God” and “Satan” and “the creator.”

In one recording, he cursed at police and said, to no one in particular, “If you touch me, I will kill you … Do you understand?”

In a message to a friend, he complained of being ticketed, described it as “the last straw” and asked the friend to remember him.

Berak, who reportedly has a history of mental problems, had been examined by psychiatrists and found competent to stand trial.

“He went out looking for someone in law enforcement,” Frazee told jurors, retracing Berak’s  45-mile drive from his Macomb County job to his home, into Lapeer County and then a 22-mile police pursuit that ended tragically in Oakland County.

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