by Christian Duque
Wellness competitor Nashali Alma has gone viral for a video showing her fighting off an attacker at her apartment complex gym. It’s unclear if the assailant, Xavier Thomas-Jones, resided in the complex or not, but Alma states she let him in. This is very common in gyms of this sort as residents leave their keycards at home or misplace them. I’ve let other residents into my complex’s gym before. It happens.
The attack took place on a Sunday afternoon in January and from what’s been reported, Alma and Thomas-Jones were the only two people in the gym when the attack took place. Fortunately cameras were rolling and everything that took place was recorded.
Initially it seemed like any other normal day in the gym. After watching a great interview that Nashali did with our buddy Xavier Wills of Desktop Bodybuilding (video included), I was able to get some key insights into writing this article. What’s highly upsetting about this attack is that there were no early signs of where it was headed. The assailant didn’t attack Nashali at the moment she let him in. It seems there was a significant amount of time in between him entering the facility and him lunging at her. In fact, the assailant drew so little attention to himself, that Alma admittedly didn’t pay him much attention while she trained. And while it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings, I think most people would be a little more laid back given that they’re training where they live, that the gym isn’t open to the public, and that everything is being recorded. Even still, a crime can happen anywhere, under any number of circumstances.
The fact that the assailant attacked Nashali and was adamant about her not making any phone calls, suggests he wanted to hurt her. Alma instinctively gripped her phone and wouldn’t let go of it for any reason. She was also able to launch and connect some hits against Thomas-Jones which undoubtedly must have stunned him.
Typically a criminal banks on the element of surprise, hoping that victims will be immobilized by panic or offer cooperation in hopes that the criminal will either stop attacking or hopefully leave. When Alma fought back, she proved that she was not going to be a victim. If he was going to attack her, she was going to attack back. That said, the wellness competitor was incredibly smart when it counted. As you can see from the video, she fought back, but she never made a stand. Her hits were strategic and they were coupled with efforts aimed at fleeing. If anyone was in a panic it was the attacker as not only would his would-be victim not give up her phone, but she landed strikes, and she was clearly faster on her feet than he was on his.
Alma had a clear-cut goal in sight and that was to defend herself. Upon doing so, she was able to completely take control of the situation and it seems the assailant fled. Apparently police were not able to apprehend him until he tried carrying out a home invasion of a female resident. From news reports, it seems that that woman’s boyfriend was able to scare Thomas-Jones away. It was only then that law enforcement took him into custody.
Also according to news reports, it’s been confirmed that Thomas-Jones intended to sexually assault both women. This detail is important because he could have tried making the case that his goal was to steal a phone or burglarize an apartment. That said, the fact the motive of both crimes is already known, makes me believe that the defendant may be in the process of making a deal or may have already done so. Admitting to the mens rea (the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime) is beyond incriminating. Then again, the defendant may have waived his Miranda rights and incriminated himself as criminal defendants often do.
Whatever the case may be, the fact that Thomas-Jones was so adamant about sexually assaulting women in this complex draws others concerns, particularly if he resides on the property. If so, I would be shocked if he didn’t have a lengthy criminal record. Apartment complexes, especially those run by large management companies, need to run better background checks on potential tenants. We live in a day and age where security is of the utmost importance and complexes need to know who they’re allowing to live on their property. This is especially the case because people tend to feel more at ease where they live.
Thomas-Jones is very, very lucky that Alma was not armed and did not put a bullet (or 15) into him. He’s also very lucky that the couple in the home he forced his way into with the intention of sexually assaulting another woman, weren’t armed and didn’t make him worm food.
The Sunshine State is a place where residents exercise their 2nd Amendment rights and where you have something called the Stand Your Ground Law. What this law basically states is that if you have a reasonable belief that your life is in danger, then you are allowed to use deadly force to stop the attack. And while you have a duty to retreat in a public place, I’d argue that a gym within the apartment complex where you live is not entirely a public place. Even still, Alma did try to flee several times by using misdirection to throw the assailant off. Had she not been able to successfully keep the attacker away and had she then treated Thomas-Jones to a 9mm slug between the eyes, I believe she would have been completely justified in so doing. A stronger case for the use of deadly force would have been the couple whose home Thomas-Jones made his way into with the goal of sexually assaulting another woman. In that case they could have smoked him on sight. This POS is very, very lucky he’s alive.
I applaud Alma for fighting back and I’m so happy things worked out for her. She was faster, there was a recording, and the assailant was captured. Knowing prosecutors the way that I do, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if this POS strikes a deal and gets minimal time. This is why it’s key that Alma and the other victim follow the case closely.
Alma told Desktop Bodybuilding that her followers on IG went from 4k to 16k (and now they’re over 30k). Good for her! But one fantastic use of those added followers should be to let them know when the case goes to court. Have them call the district attorney’s office and let them know that this is a case they’re watching. Put pressure on that office and that elected or appointed official so they know that the cutting of any sweetheart deals will be discussed online and won’t be like any number of other deals that are struck for easy convictions.
I understand that deals are a necessary evil to keep courts functioning, but the fact this scumbag was so committed to sexually assaulting two women, should give us all substantial pause. He needs to be incarcerated – the longer, the better.
Finally, while I applaud Alma for fighting back, I’d also encourage folks (men and women) to at least consider the idea of getting a CCW or carrying some kind of non-lethal protection (provided it’s legal where you live). Martial arts is also useful, but unless you can employ martial arts instinctively, no attacker is going to give you ten seconds to get into a crane stance and only attack you when you say “I’m ready now.”
Fighting back and taking a stand sounds very, very catchy, but it’s also a recipe for disaster. Thank God Alma is ok and that the other woman had her boyfriend home to scare the attacker away, but these are all variables that could very well not be there the next time. We all hope there won’t be a next time, but we don’t ever know for sure.
Always be vigilant of your surroundings, never panic no matter what, and defend yourself whenever possible. The most important thing you can do is get away, but sometimes you have to do like Alma did – defend yourself and try to flee, simultaneously. She couldn’t have reacted better, but I do hope she and others consider the points I’ve made in this article as well.