WATCH: Tampa woman fights back after attack at apartment gym

Woman attacked in Tampa gym
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 11:20 AM EST
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TAMPA, Fla. (WWSB) - A woman attacked by a stranger last month at her Tampa apartment complex gym told other women Thursday to “keep fighting, never give up.”

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says on Jan. 22, deputies responded to the Inwood Park Apartment Complex to investigate an assault. Nashali Alma, 24, told them she escaped after a man attacked her in the gym.

Alma said she was exercising alone before letting the suspect into the gym. She told deputies she had seen previously in the gym.

As Alma continued her workout, the suspect, identified as Xavier Thomas-Jones, 25, approached her and attempted to grab her waist. She yelled, demanding he get away from her, but he continued to chase her around the gym.

Thomas-Jones then grabbed Alma and pinned her on the floor. She continued to fight him off while trying to call 911. Eventually, he released his grip on Alma, and she immediately ran out of the gym to a nearby apartment, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies were able to track Thomas-Jones down and arrest him less than 24 hours later.

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.”

Sheriff Chad Chronister said her story was inspiring. “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.”

Thomas-Jones faces charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment and kidnapping.