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A Iowa pastor and longtime chaplain of first responders was robbed and beaten to death at his own church.
First responders were called to the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Dodge on Wednesday after receiving a report of an unresponsive male outside of the church only to find 64-year-old Allen Henderson, the chaplain who had long served them, in dire condition, according to the Fort Dodge Police Department.
Medical treatment was administered on Henderson, the senior pastor of the church, and he was transferred to a local hospital but he was soon “pronounced dead appearing to have suffered from bodily injuries consistent with an assault,” according to police.
“Information obtained from witnesses in the area, as well as other evidence, indicated a confrontation of some sort had occurred in or just outside the church,” police state.
Information soon led to Joshua Pendleton, 36, as the sole suspect, according to authorities. He was booked on both first-degree murder and first-degree robbery. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf at this time.
A motive for the pastor’s death has not been released. Pendleton has allegedly admitted getting into a confrontation with Henderson, according to court records obtained by KCCI in Des Moines. When he was arrested, Pendleton allegedly surrendered the pastor’s stolen cellphone.
The suspect appeared agitated during his first court appearance, video from his first attempt at a court appearance shows. He appeared over video conference and became upset about a camera; his first appearance has been pushed to Friday, KFXA in Cedar Rapids, Iowa reports.
It is not Pendleton's first time in court. His arrest record includes several incidents of violence and mental health concerns. He allegedly assaulted two hospital security officers and punched a hole in a wall in the hospital’s ER back in 2016. A year later he was arrested for allegedly choking his own mother, KCCI reports.
Police noted that the slain pastor “was a special person to many in our area.”
“He was a beloved member of our family and we are working with heavy hearts this evening as we move forward from this tragic incident,” a police statement read. “He will forever be remembered for his dedication and service for all of those he touched within this community and beyond.”
Henderson often accompanied officers when they needed to tell the families of car collision victims that their loved one had died.
"He was the person we leaned on for that," Fort Dodge Police Chief Roger Porter told CNN, adding that often the pastor would stay with the families longer than he needed to so that he could console them.
"A lot of us in this profession unfortunately see a lot of tragic incidents that can affect us and he was always there for us to offer his support and kind words to help us through any kind of incident," Fort Dodge Police spokesman Ryan Gruenberg told KCCI. "And he was just always there to lighten the mood and bring a smile on all our faces."
Anyone with information about the deadly incident is urged to contact the police department at (515) 573-1426.
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