TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A 24-year-old woman was able to fight off an attacker who chased her around a gym at an apartment complex in Tampa last month, authorities said.
“As soon as he was approaching me,” recalled Nashali Alma. “I pushed him. I said, ‘Bro, what the f are you doing?'”
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the incident occurred Jan. 22 at a gym in the Inwood Park Apartment Complex and was caught on a security camera.
Nashali Alma told deputies she was exercising alone when a man identified as Xavier Thomas-Jones arrived at the gym. She said she felt comfortable letting him into the facility because she saw him there before.
In surveillance video released Wednesday, the man can be seen approaching Alma and grabbing at her waist.
“Next thing you know,” said Alma. “I get up from doing my workout and I grab my phone and he just approaches me and not a single word was exchanged.”
Alma told him to go away and tried to leave the gym, but he started chasing her around the facility and was able to grab her and pin her to the floor. Alma was eventually able to fight off her attacker, run out of the gym and call 911.
“When it was happening, I actually had no fear,” said Alma. “I am a body builder and I’m actually pretty strong, so in my mind, he was kind of equal to me.”
Deputies said Thomas-Jones fled, but investigators were able to track him down, and arrested him 24 hours later. He faces charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment, and kidnapping, authorities said.
“I would tell every woman always to keep fighting, never give up,” Alma said in a statement provided by the sheriff’s office. “As long as you fight back and show him that you’re strong and you’re not giving up, I believe it’s possible to escape. It’s better to reach out to law enforcement sooner than later. The sooner they have the information, the sooner they can catch that person.”
“I was overwhelmed with emotion at how proud I was that this victim wasn’t going to allow herself to be raped,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “And how hard she fought and the strength she had.”