Nashali Alma is being hailed as an inspiration by law enforcement officials. Her alleged attacker, Xavier Travis Thomas-Jones, 25, has been arrested and charged with one count of sexual battery and one count of kidnapping, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.
According to a news release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded on Jan. 22, 2023, to the Inwood Park Apartment Complex regarding an alleged assault. Once there, first responders contacted Alma, who told them she had just escaped from a man who attacked her inside the gym.
“Alma said she was exercising alone before letting the suspect into the gym. She explained that she opened the door for him because he was someone she’d seen previously in the gym,” the release states. “As Alma continued her workout, the suspect, Xavier Thomas-Jones, 25, approached her and attempted to grab her waist. She yelled at him, demanding to get away from her, but he continued to chase her around the gym.”
Surveillance footage from inside the gym shows the man police say is Thomas-Jones entering the gym, then approaching Alma at the back of the gym and reaching out toward her with both hands. Holding her cell phone in her left hand, Alma quickly pushes him away and tries to get around him to the exit, but he blocks her path while repeatedly trying to grab her.
Alma makes it to the other side of the gym, but her attacker grabs her from behind. She turns around and begins striking him in the face with her left hand while holding her cell phone in her right hand.
The attacker then gets both arms around her waist and takes her to the floor, landing on top of her. The two then grapple on the ground before Alma’s attacker finally quits, allowing her to escape to a nearby apartment and call for help.
“I would tell every woman always to keep fighting, never give up,” Alma said in a video posted to HCSO’s YouTube page. “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 praised Alma’s mettle, hoping her story would inspire other women.
“I was disgusted by the suspect’s actions, how he preyed on this young woman,” he said. “This woman’s strength, courage, and determination are inspiring. I know that her bravery to share this story will impact the lives of many other women.”
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