A Tampa woman who made national headlines last month for relentlessly fending off a man trying to attack her in an apartment gym was recognized for her bravery by local authorities.
Nashali Alma, 24, received the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s first-ever “Strength and Courage Award” at a ceremony Wednesday night after Sheriff Chad Chronister said her actions will impact 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.”
Frightening footage of the Jan. 22 incident was released last month showing Alma exercising in the gym at the Inwood Park Apartment Complex in Tampa when she let in her attacker, 25-year-old Xavier Thomas-Jones, into the building before continuing her workout.
She said she believed he was also there to work out, as she had seen him before, Alma told police.
Thomas-Jones then approached her and tried to grab Alma’s wrists. She pushes him away before he starts chasing her around the gym, video shows.
“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.
In the footage, Alma and Thomas-Jones can be seen sparring for several moments, with the assailant pinning her to the floor.
She eventually got back on her feet and ran to a nearby apartment, where she called 911 after defending herself for a grueling eight minutes.
Thomas-Jones fled and tried to enter another woman’s apartment in the complex.
He was arrested less than 24 hours later and charged with sexual battery, false imprisonment, burglary, and kidnapping.
After the attack, Alma said that she hopes the harrowing experience will inspire women to learn to defend 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.