A California youth pastor has been charged with murder after a man he allegedly put in a coma during a violent confrontation in a Las Vegas parking lot died.
Robert Lynn Cox was arrested by Manteca, Calif., police on a murder warrant issued by Nevada prosecutors after 55-year-old Link Ellingson died in December after months of being in a coma, the Modesto Bee reported.
Cox, 35, was initially booked in San Joaquin County jail but has since posted bail and is reportedly scheduled to appear in a Nevada courtroom Friday to answer the charges.
The fact that Cox was charged nearly a year after the incident outside the Four Kegs pub in Las Vegas, about a 15-minute drive from the strip, stunned the local community and his family.
On a message posted on the Place of Refuge church website in Manteca, Pastor Mike Dillman asks for parishioners' support and gives Cox's side of the story.
"A very large man assaulted Rob and two of our interns," the message read. "Rob used his weight to push the man back causing him to fall and he hit his head on the concrete."
The church portrays Ellingson as the aggressor in the June 13 incident, claiming that as Cox and his group left Four Kegs, they were confronted by Ellingson in the parking lot. That's where Ellingson allegedly said he was going to "kill" Cox and began punching people in the group before the youth pastor pushed Ellingson down, the Bee reported.
Cox broke a finger in the incident and two interns suffered concussions and were taken to a local hospital, according to the church statement.
Cox initially told police he punched Ellingson in the face but then later clarified that he pushed Ellingson and both men fell to the ground, the Bee reported.
Ellingson slipped into a coma from his head injury and died six months later. The county coroner concluded his death was a homicide, but the church claims prosecutors in Las Vegas told Cox and his family that they believed the incident to be self-defense.
Instead, authorities issued an arrest warrant for Cox without warning and listed him as a fugitive, the Modesto Bee reported. He was arrested at his church last week while his children were at a dental appointment.
"It was really hard to explain to my children, what happened, because, you know, their dad was just gone," Cox told Fox40. "They went to the dentist, and their dad got arrested at the church, and that's all."
He said he had plenty of "sleepless nights" in jail but wasn't mad at prosecutors. He was simply confused that he was charged and regarded as a fugitive.
"As you can imagine, we are all in a state of disbelief and covet your prayers and support at this time," the church message says.