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Harrowing video shows US woman fighting off man trying to rape her inside gym

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For a 24-year-old woman in Tampa, Florida, the hours she put in at the gym eventually paid off when a man heavier and bulkier than she was tried to assault her.

A video released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday showed Ms Nashali Alma fighting off and chasing away 25-year-old Xavier Thomas-Jones inside a gym at the Inwood Park Apartment complex in Tampa.

The video, which has gone viral, showed Ms Alma lifting weights alone inside the gym at around 10pm on Jan 22 when she noticed Thomas-Jones standing at the door.

She buzzed him in. She said she had seen him before at the gym, and so thought he was there to exercise. Court records showed he, too, lived at the apartment complex.

“My thought process was, it’s just another dude coming to work out,” she said in an interview with Fox 13, “I didn’t think anything out of that.”

Footage from a surveillance camera showed him, at first, just sitting and standing a few paces away from Ms Alma, and occasionally glancing at her.

Thomas-Jones then approached her and tried to grab her.

Ms Alma recalled telling him: “Bro, what the f_ are you doing? Get away from me. Stop trying to touch me.”

She managed to push him away, but he started chasing her around the gym.

He caught her and tried to wrestle and pin her to the floor. She punched him, even as she tried calling for help with her phone.

He tried locking his arm around her neck, but she kept fighting back till he tired out and headed for the door.

“When it was happening, I actually had no fear,” Ms Alma said.

“I am a bodybuilder, and I’m actually pretty strong. So, in my mind, he was kind of equal to me,” she said.

She said Thomas-Jones probably didn’t think she would put up a fight, but she knew she had it in her.

“As long as you fight back and show him that you’re strong and you’re not giving up, it’s possible to escape,” she said.

“My advice would be to never give up,” she said. “My parents always told me in life to never give up on anything, and that’s one thing I kept in my mind when I was fighting him.”

Investigators said a day after assaulting Ms Alma, Thomas-Jones knocked on the door of another woman at the apartment complex he spotted standing on her balcony.

When she opened the door, he asked her if she wanted to “hang out”. He then tried to force his way into her apartment, but her fiancee was inside. He chased him away.

Thomas-Jones was later arrested, and is now facing charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment, burglary and kidnaping.

He insisted that he thought the two women he assaulted and threatened showed an interest in having sex with him.