Offer of Help Meets With Attack, Injury


Raymond Zimmerman's generosity has often brought him trouble.

He frequently offered the homeless a place to sleep, only to be robbed in return. He dispensed cash to neighbors in need, only to fall short on his own rent.

So it was hardly a shock to friends that the 280-pound Zimmerman, his heart as wide as his girth, would try to help a man he saw lying on the sidewalk Friday outside a supermarket.

For his efforts, Zimmerman was punched in the face. And as he fell, his head struck the sidewalk.

"It was awful. . . . He was innocently trying to help," said Lydia Behl, who saw the incident unfold from her beauty shop.

Paramedics rushed Zimmerman, 55, to UC Irvine Medical Center, where doctors discovered that his brain was swelling. On Monday, hospital officials said he remained in serious condition in intensive care.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman's alleged assailant remains in custody on $50,500 bail on suspicion of assault.

Zimmerman's ex-wife, Anna Linda Zimmerman, said she was saddened by what had happened but hardly surprised. She said her ex-husband was kind to a fault.

He regularly offered his home, heeding her protests only after one group stayed the night and cleaned them out of valuables, she said.

But Zimmerman continued dispensing what little he had. Living on disability checks--and whatever else he made during winning streaks at blackjack--he took strangers off the streets and put them up in motels, his ex-wife said.

"Sometimes we didn't have money for ourselves. Nothing. But he'd prefer to give it to others," Anna Zimmerman said. "He doesn't have money, but he has a big heart."

That heart took a toll on their marriage. Tired of worrying about the rent and fed up being asked to give haircuts to the homeless people he brought home, Anna Zimmerman eventually decided to leave. The couple divorced more than 10 years ago.

Her husband, she said, moved from motel to motel and last year settled into the Hospitality Inn in Garden Grove. He was an instant hit. Children loved him for the birthday presents he brought them. And he quickly earned a reputation for doling out advice and financial help.

On Friday, Zimmerman was shopping at the Village Center mall opposite his motel when he saw a man lying on the sidewalk outside a Ralphs supermarket.

Behl said she saw Zimmerman and another shopper bend over the prone man, telling him not to worry, that the two would help him. But the man got up and punched Zimmerman once in the face, Behl said.

"He went clunk. His head hit the concrete. Oh, my God! It was the scariest sound," she said. "I was so scared for him."

Sheriff's deputies arrived within minutes and arrested Jeffrey Davis, 34, who allegedly was drunk. Neighbors at Zimmerman's motel rushed to the strip mall to watch paramedics take their friend away.

Venita Ransom, who lives above Zimmerman, has visited his bedside every day, watching him slowly improve. But even a blow to his head, she said, will not stop him trying to help strangers.

"It gets him in trouble sometimes," said Ransom, "but he don't care. He'll do it again."

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