Public Safety

Iowa pastor beaten to death and robbed outside his church

The Rev. Al Henderson (Des Moines Police Facebook photo)
The Rev. Al Henderson (Des Moines Police Facebook photo)
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FORT DODGE — A central Iowa pastor who also served as a chaplain to area first responders was robbed and beaten to death outside his church, authorities said.

Officers found the Rev. Allen Henderson lying unresponsive outside St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Dodge on Wednesday evening, police said in a news release. Henderson was pronounced dead at a 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 Thursday. Court records show he previously was convicted of disorderly conduct, assaulting a jailer and other crimes.

In a court filing, a police lieutenant said security footage showed a man who officers identified as Pendleton trying to get into the church building.

He said Pendleton later acknowledged to investigators he had fought with a man at the church, and he gave officers a cellphone he’d taken from the man.

Meetings and classes were going on inside the building during the fight, but no one reported seeing what happened, police Capt. Ryan Gruenberg said Thursday.

An autopsy has been scheduled.

Henderson, 64, 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 northwest of Des Moines, described the attack as senseless.

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“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, the group has provided water and food to first responders and raised money to buy Fort Dodge police officers new dress caps for formal occasions.

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