Megachurch pastor Dimitri Bradley has been killed in an horrific car crash, leaving thousands of members from his City Church in Richmond, Virginia, and others in the wider Christian community in mourning.
Virginia State Police said Pastor Dimitri Bradley, 51, died after he crashed his 2016 Cadillac Escalade on Interstate 195 near Arthur Ashe Boulevard at about 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
"Last night we lost our father, our brother, our friend, and our pastor. The heart of City Church and the Bradley family is heavy and hurting right now, but through it all we trust God. We thank you for your prayers and concerns for us at this very difficult time. We ask that you give the Bradley family privacy and prayer; and we will have more information forthcoming. We love you all," the church announced on their Facebook page following the tragedy.
Investigators have indicated that speed may have been a factor in the crash, and police have suggested the pastor was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of his death.
A Virginia State Police spokesperson told WTVR: "The trooper's preliminary investigation reveals [the Escalade] was traveling west on I-195 when it ran off the left side of the road and struck the guardrail. The Cadillac then went over the guardrail, struck a pole, and overturned in the median. [Bradley] was not wearing his seat belt. He died at the scene."
Prior to his pastoral ministry, Bradley had a career in banking before he founded City Church with his wife, Nicole, in 1998 with a mission to reach the lost in their community.
The church has grown since that time and now boasts a congregation of more than 4,000, according to their church website. Bradley has also released a book called U Mad?, which aims to show readers God's way of helping people overcome and conquer anger.
Ron Carpenter Jr., who pastors the 14,000-member Redemption Bay Area church in San Jose, California, has paid tribute to Bradley, saying that he remembered him as a "giant of a man in character and spirit."
"This is the kind of post that no one ever wants to make. It is with great sadness that I speak to you on behalf of Dr. Dimitri Bradley, who at age 51 was tragically taken from us last night in an automobile accident. Pastor Dimitri pastored City Church in Richmond, Virginia, with other campuses that were spreading all the way to the western parts of the United States," Carpenter stated on his Facebook feed on Thursday.
"Pastor Dimitri was one of the brightest, most intelligent, and most innovative leaders I've ever had the privilege of knowing. He was a part of Redemption Ministerial Fellowship for many years and one of its greatest supporters. He was also a great friend. His presence loomed large as he was a giant of a man in stature as well as a giant of a man in character and spirit.
"His loss will be deeply felt by the family, by the church, by the cities in which he pastored, and to all of us who loved him dearly," he continued. "Please pray for his wife, Nicole, his daughter, Jordan, and his son, Julius, as well as all of the family members and people of the wonderful congregation, City Church. It's times like these that we have no explanation and religious clichés fall to the ground. We simply trust God and ask for his peace and comfort. Love you Dr. Dimitri Bradley ... you will be remembered."
One City Church congregant, Kenneth Morris, has said that Bradley "never believed church was normal."
Morris said, "I'm devastated by the loss of this great man. He's absolutely my mentor and absolutely my pastor. He was constantly renovating and he was constantly making things better. He never believed church was normal. Church could be this wonderful special place where you come and change your life and you become the light in darkness."