A California pastor is being extradited to Nevada on a murder charge in the death of a man outside a Las Vegas sports bar -- despite claims by witnesses that the father of two was acting in self-defense.
Robert Cox, of Manteca, Calif., claims he did not throw a punch at Link Ellingson, knocking him to the ground and causing a mortal head injury. But prosecutors claim Cox changed his story, first telling officers he punched Ellingson after the man threatened him outside Four Kegs bar, and then later claiming in a written statement that he grabbed Ellingson by the waist and the two fell to the ground, according to the criminal complaint charging Cox with felony murder.
A detective from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department responded to reports of a fight outside thebar on June 13, 2013. The officer claims in his deposition that Cox said he was punched in the face by Ellingson in the parking lot of the sports bar after Ellingson threatened and "moved aggressively" in his direction. The detective, identified in the complaint as "D. Barringer," claims Cox told him he then punched Ellingson in the face with his left hand and that the man fell down, striking the back of his head on the ground.
The officer said that Cox later provided a written statement that was "similar to the information he verbally provided" with "one significant difference."
"In the written statement, Cox alleged, after he was battered by Ellingson, that he attempted to get control of Ellingson by grabbing him by the waist," reads the complaint filed by the Clark County District Attorney's Office. "They both fell to the ground with Ellingson landing on top of Cox's left ring finger, which caused the finger to break. Cox did not indicate in the written statement that he had punched Ellingson."
Cox, pastor at the Place of Refuge in Manteca, Calif., was traveling with his wife, young children and a church service group on a trip from California to Florida when they decided to stop at the Las Vegas sports bar for dinner.The 35-year-old father of two is currently being held in the San Joaquin County Jail awaiting extradition to Nevada, which was first reported by Fox40.com.
Cox's wife, Julia, called the detective's recollection of events a "straight up lie," saying she was at the scene when the fight occurred and that her husband "never punched that man."
"This is absolutely insane," Julia Cox told FoxNews.com. "There's no logical reasoning for the murder charge. This was the most unexpected thing they (prosecutors) could ever have done."
Cox said the group of 22, which included her children, ages five and seven, had stopped at the restaurant for dinner. She said the group entered the Four Kegs through the restaurant side but left the eatery through the bar section.
"None of us had anything to drink," Cox said. "My husband, myself and my kids exited first. My husband escorted us to our RV and then he waited outside for the [group] to pay their tabs."
What happened next took Cox and the entire youth group by surprise, she said.
Cox said that as she put her children to bed inside the RV, she could hear obscenities yelled from outside the vehicle that "did not come from my husband."
She promptly closed the windows, she said, shielding her two young children from the screaming after she heard a man yell, "F--k you," and "This is your day to die."
Cox said she watched from one of the RV's windows as the man, whom she identified as Ellingson, began assaulting members of the church service group.
"I had a direct line of sight of my husband and I could see he was in a defense mode," she said. "I saw my husband grab him [Ellingson] around the waist. They spun out of my view and then there lies this man on the ground. My husband had fallen on top of him and we all just kind of stood there in shock."
"My husband was acting (in) total self-defense. The attacker was huge. He was assaulting people in the group who were trying to intervene and get him to stop but he wouldn't stop. And that's when my husband grabbed him by the waist.
Cox said she is "doing everything we can" to prove her husband is innocent of murder.
A description of the bar's surveillance video in the criminal complaint raises many questions and does not state Cox was captured on camera punching Ellingson.
"The video shows Ellingson exit the bar with a cigarette in his hand. Moments after exiting the bar, Ellingson walks into the parking lot after appearing to exchange words with someone," the complaint reads. "It appears that Ellingson is heading towards something and not just walking through the parking lot.
"Ellingson is observed on video getting into an altercation with an unidentified male," the complaint goes on to state. "There are several additional unidentified persons in the vicinity. There are a few seconds where Ellingson cannot be seen on the surveillance video. Ellingson reappears on the video stumbling backwards. He falls to the ground where he remains until he is moved by medical personnel. It does not appear that anyone falls to the ground with Ellingson."
Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.