By: Julie Salomone , Stephanie Cardenas
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFTS) — A Florida woman successfully fought off a man who physically assaulted her in her apartment complex’s gym.
The assault happened on January 22 at The Oaks of Woodland Park Apartments in Tampa.
Nashali Alma, 24, was exercising alone. She let the suspect into the gym because she had seen him in the gym previously.
“Usually, people forget their key tags and fobs. We do let them in and so I let the gentleman in. I didn’t think twice about letting him in. I was in the middle of my workout,” said Alma.
Surveillance video showed Alma continuing her workout while the suspect, Xavier Thomas-Jones, approached her and attempted to grab her waist. Alma pushed him away and continued to fight him. The attack lasted more than one minute.
“After we were on the ground wrestling for a little bit I went ahead and pulled his beard hair. I started twisting, twisted, twisted. I could see from his face that it hurt really bad,” said Alma.
Thomas-Jones was able to pin Alma on the floor, but Alma continued to fight him off while attempting to call 911.
“The moment I tried to call 911, he would try to grab my arm or he was grabbing me at this moment. I can’t call 911 so I got to fight this out for the moment,” said Alma.
Alma is a bodybuilder. She said she hoped he would eventually get tired if she kept fighting.
“That was my thought the entire time because the more fight you put in, I do believe, they would get more tired because they see like dang, this girl is fighting. You know, you can see at the end of the video he was tired,” said Alma.
Alma was able to break free, run out of the gym and call 911.
HSCO was able to track down Thomas-Jones and arrest him on January 23. He faces charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment, and kidnapping. Alma wanted to speak out about her experience to encourage other women who’ve dealt with similar incidents to speak out.
“I would tell every woman always to keep fighting, never give up,” said Alma. “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 disgusted by the suspect’s actions, how he preyed on this young woman,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
According to a criminal report affidavit, Thomas-Jones had a similar incident the day after the gym attack. Thomas-Jones knocked on another woman’s door after watching her for several minutes on her balcony, according to authorities.
“He comes and knocks on the door and I answer thinking it could be a custodial man or something like that and I open the door and he’s like do you want to hang out?” said the woman.
Deputies said Thomas-Jones took about four steps into the apartment. The woman’s fiancé was home and chased him away.
“You have no idea who I am. You have clearly been watching me from outside my apartment and you just decided to come out and knock on my door. It was weird. It was really weird, really scary,” she said.
According to the reports, Thomas-Jones admitted to deputies he wanted to have sexual relations with both women.
This story was originally published Feb. 16 by WFTS in Tampa Bay, an E.W. Scripps Company.