A Manteca, California, church has rallied behind their worship and youth pastor, after he was arrested and charged with the murder of a man he fought with outside a Las Vegas bar during a church trip last year.
A FOX 40 report says the pastor, Robert Cox of The Place of Refuge Church in Manteca, is now awaiting extradition to Nevada in the San Joaquin County Jail.
His murder charge stems from the June 13, 2013, fight he had with the now deceased Link Ellingson in the parking lot of a Las Vegas sports club called Four Kegs.
His church insists that Cox acted in self-defense, but detectives on the case allege that the pastor lied about punching the dead man in the face.
In a letter of support on the church's website, senior pastor Mike Dillman explained that pastor Cox, his wife, Julie, and a group of interns had stopped to get something to eat at the bar after conducting a service at an area church on their outreach trip last year.
"After finishing their meal, and while preparing to continue their trip to Texas, a very large man assaulted Rob and two of our interns. The man declared that he was going to 'kill' Rob," noted Dillman.
"In self-defense and in an effort to protect the interns, Rob used his weight to push the man back, causing him to fall and he hit his head on the concrete," he added.
Kelli Lane, a witness who was with the church group during the fight, said Ellingson unexpectedly approached the group as they were talking in the parking lot.
"He said, 'Hey girlfriend, you want to F with me?' And Rob was immediately like, 'Oh my gosh, no, back up, I have kids here.' [I] said no. And the man said, 'Well, I'm coming to F with you,'" said Lane.
Ellingson, she explained, attacked the group after that and started punching at them.
"He assaulted five of us multiple times before Rob could get his arms around him to push him back and, unfortunately, when he was pushing him back they tripped and fell," Lane told FOX40.
After hitting his head, Ellingson went into a coma.
The police report insists, however, that Cox punched Ellingson in the face and lied about it.
"There was no punch thrown. I can understand where that was implied because his finger was broken, but from the get go we said that the police report is false and we need to get it fixed," said Cox's wife, Julie, who said he is in need of a lot of moral support.
"He needs a good morale booster, he's struggling," Julie told FOX40. "Obviously, he has no criminal past, no history of this."
Unfortunately for Pastor Cox, however, Ellingson died in December.
In his letter of support Dillman explained that the church secured an attorney in Las Vegas shortly after the incident; and when Ellingson died they were told no charges would be filed.
"After several months we received a letter from the Las Vegas district attorney stating they could find no cause for charging Rob, that his actions were in self-defense. Now after six months the Las Vegas district attorney has decided to charge Rob and he will extradited from Manteca to Las Vegas to face the charge," lamented Dillman.
"As you can imagine, we are all in a state of disbelief and covet your prayers and support at this time. Should you have any questions please don't hesitate to call me at the church office. Please pray for Julie and our family and please do not engage in speculation or story telling as that will only complicate the situation," he pleaded.