Local officials recognized a Tampa woman who made national news last month for tenaciously fending off a man trying to assault her in an apartment gym.
Nashali Alma, 24, was presented with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s first-ever “Strength and Courage Award” at a ceremony Wednesday night after Sheriff Chad Chronister stated that her actions will have an impact on the lives of other women.
“I was ready to cry with tears of joy and happiness that I was able to inspire everyone,” Alma told Fox 13. “Everyone is so proud of me, they’re calling me a hero. It was just so overwhelming I am just so happy.”
This month, terrifying footage of the Jan. 22 event was released, showing Alma exercising in the gym at the Inwood Park Apartment Complex in Tampa when she let in her assailant, 25-year-old Xavier Thomas-Jones, before resuming her workout.
Alma informed the police that she felt he was also there to work out because she had seen him before. Then Thomas-Jones approached her and tried to grab Alma’s wrists. The footage shows her pushing him away before he starts following her around the gym.
“I said, ‘Bro, what the F are you doing? Get away from me. Stop trying to touch me.’ He started chasing me around the bench, and we ended up on the other side of the gym,” Alma said in a voice recording accompanying the video.
Alma and Thomas-Jones can be seen sparring for many seconds in the video, with the attacker pushing her to the ground. She ultimately got back up and rushed to a nearby apartment, where she dialed 911 after a hard eight-minute defense.
Thomas-Jones ran away and tried to get into another woman’s unit in the complex. He was arrested and charged with sexual battery, false imprisonment, burglary, and kidnapping less than 24 hours later.
Alma stated following the incident that she thinks the terrible experience would inspire women to learn to protect themselves. “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,” she said.