Thousands of members from City Church in Richmond, Virginia, are now in mourning after Dimitri Bradley, their lead pastor and founder, was killed in a crash on Interstate 195 Wednesday.
Virginia State Police said the 51-year-old pastor died after he crashed his 2016 Cadillac Escalade near Arthur Ashe Boulevard at about 9:30 p.m., WTVR reported.
“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 Thursday.
Police investigating the crash suggested the pastor might have been speeding and was not wearing a seat belt at the time of his death.
"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," a Virginia State Police spokesperson told WTVR. "[Bradley] was not wearing his seat belt. He died at the scene."
Bradley, who began his career in banking, founded City Church with his wife, Nicole, in 1998 to reach the lost in their community. The church boasts a congregation of more than 4,000 today, according to their website. Bradley is also the author of U Mad? a book designed to show readers God’s way of helping people overcome and conquer anger.
Ron Carpenter Jr., pastor of the 14,000-member Redemption Bay Area church in San Jose, California, remembered Bradley 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 began in a post on Facebook 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.”
Sheilah Belle, host of a morning show on the religious radio station Praise 104.7, told WTVR that she met Bradley when the station named him "Pastor of the Month."
"He had integrity and he cared for the people and that makes a difference," Belle said. "When you lose a soldier like that for the Kingdom of God, it hurts."
She continued, "The heart he has for the people spoke so loudly and it beat so hard [you] could hear it. People remember how you make them feel and he made a lot of people feel in a good way."
Kenneth Morris, a City Church member, said on Belle's show that Bradley “never believed church was normal.”
"I'm devastated by the loss of this great man. He’s absolutely my mentor and absolutely my pastor," he said. "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."