'Brother to all': Iowa pastor beaten to death and robbed outside of his church

A central Iowa pastor who also served as a chaplain to area first responders was robbed and beaten to death outside of his church, authorities said.

Officers sent to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Dodge on Wednesday evening found the Rev. Allen Henderson lying unresponsive outside of the building, police said in a news release. Henderson was pronounced dead at a local hospital of injuries consistent with an assault.

Police later arrested Joshua Pendleton, 36, and charged him with robbery and first-degree murder. He remained jailed on Thursday, and online court records don’t list an attorney for him yet. The records do show that he was previously convicted of disorderly conduct, assaulting a jailer and other crimes.

In a court filing, a police lieutenant said security footage shows a man who officers identified as Pendleton trying to get into the building. He said Pendleton later acknowledged to investigators that he had fought with a man at the church, and he gave officers a cellphone he’d taken from the man.

There were meetings and classes going on inside the building while the confrontation was occurring, but none of the participants reported seeing what happened, police Capt. Ryan Gruenberg said Thursday. An autopsy has been scheduled.

Henderson, who was 64 years old, was the senior pastor at the church, where he had served since 1999.

Roger Porter, the police chief in Fort Dodge, which is 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Des Moines, described the attack as senseless.

“Pastor Al was a brother to all of us,” Porter told The Messenger newspaper. “He was a pastor to every law enforcement and fire agency in this area. This is very tough for all of us.”

In addition to his chaplain work with area first responders, Henderson was active in the group Serving Our Servants, which supports public servants. Among other activities, it has provided water and food to first responders and raised money to buy Fort Dodge police officers new dress caps for formal occasions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.