After Car Wash Actor Died Suspiciously Donna Summer & Others Were Angered
For those of us who are fans of the 70’s film, Car Wash, we all remember the character, “Geronimo,” who was played by actor, Raymond Vitte. Vitte was also know for his roles in the films, 9 To 5 (1980), Up In Smoke (1978), and Thank God It’s Friday (1978), as well as in TV shows like All In The Family, That’s My Mama, Sanford and Son, The Quest, and several more.
The thing that many of us didn’t know was that Vitte died in 1983 at the young age of 33 and what’s equally surprising is the way that he died. He died while in police custody of the LAPD under very suspicious circumstances that many of his family members and friends, like Donna Summer, believed were really fishy.
Loved ones described Vitte as an extremely religious person, who was devoted to his christian faith. At the time of his death, there were many holes in the story of the police report and his death certificate was allegedly sealed by the LAPD. Raymond Vitte’s wife, Ernesta, was 3 months pregnant when he died and she, Donna Summer, and several others spoke out publicly about their suspicions in the article you’re about to read below.
We wanted to share this with y’all because it’s been 33 years since Vitte’s death and we still are witnessing “suspicious” deaths at the hands of law enforcement in 2016. By the end of 2015, young black men were nine times more likely than any other race to be killed by police officers, and 1,134 of them were murdered by law enforcement in 2015 alone! Therefore the details surrounding Vitte’s death are still very relevant today. Scroll down to read the details below…
Here is what was reported in 1983, shortly after Robert Vitte’s death via United Press International:
LOS ANGELES — Actor Raymond Vitte, who died minutes after [an alleged] weekend fight with police, was not beaten to death by the officers, the coroner’s office said Tuesday.
Spokesman Bill Gold said preliminary reports of an autopsy showed ‘superficial injuries consistent with a struggle were found, but they were not responsible for his death.’ He also said no needle marks were found on Vitte’s body, and said there was no evidence a chokehold was applied.
Now here is where (in that same 1983 article) Vitte’s family and friends say there was something really suspicious about those findings:
Earlier in the day, a group including singer Donna Summer and the president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood chapter of the NAACP held a news conference to question the circumstances surrounding the death of the star.
Vitte’s pastor, mother and his pregnant wife, Ernesta, appeared at the same news conference, defending Vitte’s reputation and questioning circumstances of his death.
Miss Summer complained bitterly ‘that a man who’s basically minding his own business in his own home, who happens to be creating a disturbance somehow, is now dead because his neighbors called the police.’
‘Is it more important that he be quieted and that his neighbors have peace?’ she asked a reporter after the news conference, held at her Hollywood recording studio.
‘We’re less one person because his neighbors complained about some noise. That doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s more important to have the man and if the man is noisy, OK, that’s one thing. But I think our priorities are very drastically off.’
Miss Summer said she was shocked and ‘baffled’ by the death and added, ‘I’m devastated because he’s also my brother in Christ and I love him.’
The Rev. Billy Ingram, pastor of the Maranatha Community Church in suburban Inglewood, described Vitte as ‘a diligent and persistent Christian’ and said accounts of his death were not in his character.
Willis Edwards of the NAACP…criticized the police role in Vitte’s death. He asked the district attorney to investigate and urged the Police Commission ‘to halt the brutalization of black people.’
‘It’s an extrememly sad day for all black people who live in this community,’ he said. ‘Once again, we have an unfortunate example of excessive police force.’
Actress Sheila Frazier, who did not speak at the news conference, said earlier in telephone interviews that Vitte was ‘not a drug-crazed fanatic’ but ‘a solid, loving man.’
She also suggested that Vitte’s chanting, which police said included the name of Mohammed, may have been the Pentecostal practice of ‘speaking in tongues.’
Vitte died at a hospital where he was taken by officers after he stopped breathing in the back of a patrol car.
Lt. Charles Higbie said officers summoned by neighbors in the actor’s Studio City apartment complex found Vitte alone in his apartment clad only in undershorts and a shirt. The actor’s ‘religious shouting’ had continued for more than 12 hours before the neighbors called police, Higbie said.
The actor ran from officers and fell at the side of building’s swimming pool, Higbie said. He then was handcuffed and ‘was carried screaming’ to a squad car to be taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation. Officers noticed on the way that he had stopped breathing and detoured to a closer facility, where Vitte was pronounced dead.
This sounds foul on many levels and after 33 years years, the family of Ray Vitte deserves an unbiased and thorough investigation.
-ILoveOldSchoolMusic, old school news with a new point of view
Join us on Facebook for the most engaging discussions from the Old School! Old School News With A New Point Of View!