Pastor Allen Henderson, who was murdered outside his Iowa church, was a long-time chaplain for the Fort Dodge Police Department and numerous other law enforcement agencies.
“Pastor Al Henderson, Senior Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, and long-time Chaplain for all area law enforcement and first responder agencies, including the Fort Dodge Police Department, will forever be remembered for his dedication and service for all of those he touched within this community and beyond. Our thoughts are and prayers are with his family, his friends, and his congregation,” wrote Fort Dodge Police Department on Facebook.
Henderson was 64 years old. Joshua Pendleton, 36, of Fort Dodge, now stands accused of his murder.
One woman wrote on Facebook, echoing the thoughts of others: “This man (Pastor Henderson) confirmed me, work(ed) next to my mom for years in the youth program, married (her husband) and I, baptized our kids… Killed completely senselessly…He served and supported police in my hometown, putting himself in harm’s way on a regular basis… To be honest, I just don’t know how to grieve. Such an unneeded loss of an amazing and kind hearted, godly man. Leaving behind an amazing family and congregation. Please pray for their comfort.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Suspect Was Quickly Arrested in the Death of Henderson, Who Was Found Outside the Church
The murder occurred at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 400 South 13th Street.
On Wednesday, October 2 at approximately 5:45 P.M., the Webster County Telecommunications Center “received a call regarding an unresponsive male outside of the St. Paul Lutheran Church, located at 400 South 13th Street in Fort Dodge,” a press release from Fort Dodge police read.
“Medics and officers responded to the scene and located an unresponsive 64‐year old male. Medics began lifesaving medical treatment on the male and he was transported to Unity Point Trinity Regional Medical Center. The male was pronounced dead appearing to have suffered from bodily injuries consistent with an assault.” That male was identified as Pastor Allen Henderson.
“Due to the nature of the male’s injuries, Officers and Investigators on scene had reason to believe the circumstances surrounding the male’s death were suspicious. 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. Shortly thereafter, the unresponsive male was located outside of the church,” said the release.
“Law enforcement continued to gather information and quickly identified a possible suspect. Officers were directed to the 1400 block of 4th Ave South where they believed the suspect may be. While in the area, the suspect was located and taken to the Webster County Law Enforcement Center for further questioning.”
Police announced that Joshua J. Pendleton, 36 years old of Fort Dodge, was taken into custody at approximately 7:00 P.M. on the felony charges for murder and robbery in the first degree.
2. Police Say Henderson’s Death With Leave a ‘Hole in Our Department & Hearts’
Police revealed that the victim was a “special person” well known to them. He was their chaplain.
“Word has spread quickly throughout the community as to the victim’s identity in this case as he was a special person to many in our area,” the Fort Dodge PD wrote. “The victim in this case has been identified as Allen W. Henderson, Senior Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran church, as well as long time Chaplain of all area public safety agencies and first responders. 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. He will forever be remembered for his dedication and service for all of those he touched within this community and beyond.”
“A lot of us were at home when we got the phone call,” a police spokesman said in a video interview with a reporter. “Makes your stomach drop as to what’s going on,” the police spokesman said, adding of Henderson, “We will certainly miss him. He was very well known.” He said Henderson was chaplain for Fort Dodge police, the local sheriff’s office, the local district of the Iowa State Patrol, the Fort Dodge Fire Department and more, adding, “He certainly touched a lot of people. This will not be an easy one to overcome.”
The spokesman added, “He offered us support both emotionally and spiritually. He was always there for us if anything happens…He was there for us to offer support and kind words and lighten the mood.” He said the death would leave a “hole in our department and hearts.”
3. The Suspect Has a Criminal History
According to the Des Moines Register, Pendleton has a criminal history. Charges in the past five years include “attacking jailers, guards and others, often in conjunction with court-ordered medical treatment,” the newspaper reported.
There were parishioners in the church at the time of the murder. Police are still trying to determine a motive.
In the video interview with a television reporter, a police spokesman said Henderson was discovered on the west side of the building. The injuries were believed to be “from an assault.” Police were still trying to determine “what led to Mr. Henderson’s injuries.” They said that it “could have been a physical assault or an assault with some sort of weapon,” but they don’t believe any shots were fired.
4. The Church’s Website Says Its Mission Is to ‘Show the Love of Jesus’ to People
Henderson’s photo appears on the church’s website with a welcome message. “We say that a lot at St. Paul Lutheran. We say it because we mean it! You are welcome here,” it reads. “We learned that from Jesus, who was always welcoming. Wherever He went, whomever He met, the word of welcome was always shared.”
The church is affiliated with a school, as well as Bible Study and Sunday School.
“Our mission is to show the love of Jesus to the people of Webster County and beyond so that all may have a living relationship with Christ. You are welcome to join us in that mission! In Christ,” the welcome message reads.
Henderson is listed as “senior pastor” on the church website.
5. People Offered Tributes to Al Henderson on Social Media, Calling Him a ‘Genuine Man of God’
People who knew Pastor Al Henderson filled the Fort Dodge Police Department’s Facebook page with remembrances of him. “He was one of the most genuine, sweetest souls I have ever met!! He will forever be missed!! ❤️” wrote one woman.
“The most GENUINE man of God I have met ??❤️” said another. “He was such a wonderful person. My kids adored him and someone you could talk to at the church at anytime. He will be greatly missed,” wrote a man.
“My heart is breaking over the death of my good friend and brother in the ministry,” wrote a man. “Yet, Al would be the first to remind us all that in the midst of darkness there is the light of the Good News of Jesus! Our prayers and love go out to all.”