Startling Video Shows Florida Gym-Goer Fighting Off Attacker

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Screen Shot 2023 02 21 At 10 12 56 Am
Handout courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Video released by law enforcement in Florida shows a bodybuilder fighting off a man attacking her at the gym. 

Nashali Alma, 24, was exercising alone in her apartment complex's gym when the incident happened on Jan. 22, WFTS-TV reported. A man knocked at the glass door of the locked-access gym, and Alma opened the door for him because she had seen him in the gym before.

"Usually, people forget their key tags and fobs," Alma said. "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."

Surveillance video shows Alma opening the door and the man entering, then Alma returned to a piece of workout equipment. 

WFTS-TV reported that the man seen in the video, Xavier Thomas-Jones, approached Alma and attempted to grab her waist. Alma pushed him away, but he continued coming toward Alma, and chasing her around equipment and the room. 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," Alma said, as reported by WFTS-TV. 

Thomas-Jones continued assaulting Alma on the floor, but Alma kept fighting him 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," Alma told the news station.

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.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office shared video of the incident on social media, saying "Nashali Alma wanted to speak out about her experience to encourage other women who've dealt with similar incidents to speak out."

The sheriff's office was able to track down Thomas-Jones and arrest him on Jan. 23. He faces charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment and kidnapping. 

"I would tell every woman always to keep fighting, never give up," Alma said. "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."

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said he was "disgusted" by the attacker.

"I was disgusted by the suspect's actions, how he preyed on this young woman," Chronister said.

Screen Shot 2023 02 21 At 10 12 46 AmHandout courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

WFTS-TV reported that according to a criminal report affidavit, Thomas-Jones was involved in a similar incident the day after he allegedly attacked Alma.

Thomas-Jones reportedly knocked on another woman's door after watching her for several minutes on her balcony, authorities said.

"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 other victim, WFTS-TV reported.

Deputies said Thomas-Jones took about four steps into the apartment. The woman's fiancé was home and chased him out.

"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 really weird, really scary," she said.

According to the reports, Thomas-Jones admitted to deputies his actions were motivated by a sexual interest in the victims. 

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