Police helicopters flew the missing man formation over columns of uniformed officers gathered to honor Herbert B. Stovall, 60, a Peralta Community College District police lieutenant shot to death during a struggle with a suspected burglar on August 16, 1995.
The suspect, Gerald Collier, was fleeing from another officer on the campus of Laney College, just east of downtown Oakland near Lake Merritt, police said.
The fatal chase began when Peralta officer Don Tate, patrolling in his car, saw Collier breaking into a vehicle. As Tate approached, Collier got into a van and sped away with Tate in pursuit. Collier’s vehicle stopped near a bridge over the channel connecting Lake Merritt to the estuary near downtown Oakland.
Stovall, in another patrol car, heard Tate broadcasting information about the chase. Stovall got out of his car and, from the east bank of the channel, saw Tate chasing Collier on the west bank. When Collier tried to escape by crossing the channel, he was met by Stovall wading in from the other side. A struggle ensued, and Stovall, who was not wearing his bulletproof vest, was shot.
Because of Stovall’s decades of service in the Air Force as well as with the Peralta police, the flyby served as a poignant finale to the funeral Mass at All Saints Church. “There are many parasites in the world, and one of them took Herbert’s life,” Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer told the more than 400 people, half of them police officers, at the Mass. “Herbert was a producer who made things better.”
Stovall had been a member of All Saints parish and a regular attendee at 5 o’clock Mass. “This is a great loss for all of us,” Father Robert McCann said as Bishop John Cummins of the Oakland Diocese looked on. “Herbert was a person who doted over his family to do the best for them, and he was a peace officer who believed in peace.”
Stovall’s son Adrian stood with his sister, Vanessa, and recounted the zest with which Stovall embraced each day and every deed, no matter how seemingly mundane. He was remembered for being quick to find ways to help his family and friends. “My father focused on the beauty in the world and woke each morning excited about what he was going to do that day,” Adrian Stovall told the mourners. ‘It was my father’s love for people that made him special.”
Booker Ealy, director of the Peralta police force, said Stovall, his second in command, was well-liked and highly respected.
Stovall was the first Peralta officer to be killed in the line of duty since the force was formed in 1967. The 12- member Peralta force mainly deals with illegally parked vehicles, car break-ins and occasional vandalism. The Laney campus, one of four patrolled by the force, is near high-crime areas in central and east Oakland but is generally known as a low-crime oasis.
“We are not among the high-crime campuses in the state,” said Howard Perdue, Peralta’s dean of admissions. “It’s a quiet, sunny day, and then suddenly we have a police officer killed. We’re all devastated by this.”
Stovall is survived by his wife Florence, his mother Margaret Stovall, his son Adrian, his daughters Vanessa and Maritza, his brother Dwight, and three grandchildren. The statewide college police chiefs’ association established a scholarship fund in Stovall’s honor.