Among the victims of Wednesday night's shooting massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was the congregation's pastor, State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a man described as a "bridge builder" and "family man."
"A very energetic, promising, very active pastor and political leader in our state, which had a bright future," Reverend Dr. Norvel Goff said Thursday on "CBS This Morning."
Goff, a presiding elder, oversees the church where Pinckney and eight others were killed and said he knew the pastor well.
"There was no limit to where Rev. Sen. Pinckney would have ended up," he said.
As the nation continues to grapple with the news of a senseless act of violence, police are searching for Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white male.
The suspect attended the meeting at the church and stayed for nearly an hour before the deadly gunfire erupted, Police Chief Greg Mullen said.
The massacre killed nine people, three men and six women.
"You can't put your mind around it. You cannot identify this kind of evil on this level because it is so horrific and unbelievable," Goff said.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina are opening a hate crime investigation.
"We support the mayor and the police chief indicating that this is a hate crime, which it is," Goff said.
Pinckney was a married father of two. In 1997, he was elected to the State House of Representatives at age 23, making him the youngest African American legislator in South Carolina history.
The Emanuel AME Church, among the oldest black churches in the South, is significant in its own right.
It is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church.
Goff called it "a hallmark of African Methodism in the South."
"Mother Emanuel is noted for bringing about change and working together to build bridges, not only in the Charleston community, but across this nation and across this state," he said.
Goff said Bishop Richard Franklin Norris will host a prayer vigil at 12 p.m. EST at Morris Brown AME Church.
"Bishop Norris, most certainly, would certainly implore us to understand at this moment in time in our history, we too must continue to stand for what is right and to help make a difference, and violence in any place is not acceptable on any level," Goff said.