Tough call! An Autzone employee nails 'perp' (below) and calls cops at same time
Brave pair chases down Bronx 'thief'
Hello, 911? Hey, I got your thief right here!
Bronx auto-store clerk Nelson Lozanda made the call of duty yesterday, chasing and tackling a suspected shoplifter, then holding him down with one hand while phoning cops with the other. "There are a lot of thieves coming in here. They are thinking just because it's not our store, we are not going to respond to it," said Lozada, 23, one of two workers who grabbed the alleged perp about a block from an AutoZone store on East 149th Street.
The drama started in the store at about noon when a man set off alarms because he had allegedly stashed an electric drill and an Allen wrench set, worth a total of about $80, in his bag
"As we were trying to stop him, he ran into the lot," said Lozada, noting that the store is hit by up to four shoplifting attempts a day.
The man then pulled out a filthy syringe, he said.
"He said, 'I'll give you AIDS with this syringe!' Then he ran," Lozada said.
But Lozada, who was hired six months ago, and assistant manager Oscar Castelan, 19, chased him.
The pair tackled the man about a block away. Lozada held the suspect in a chokehold with his right arm and dialed 911 with his left hand.
But the alleged thief still had some fight in him. He wriggled free, swung at Castelan and put the assistant manager in a full nelson.
Meanwhile, a crowd gathered -- with some onlookers threatening the AutoZone staffers for daring to stop the suspected thief.
Lozada said he and his co-worker tried to ignore the onlookers' contemptuous cries of "It's not your store! Why do you care?"
"We're trying to do the right thing, and they're sticking up for the bad guy. It's disappointing," Lozada said.
As the crowd grew more hostile, Lozada and Castelan grew weary -- and the perp fled, leaving behind the stolen goods.
"We basically just grabbed the stuff and went back to the store," Lozada said.
Cops arrived about 10 minutes too late. They said they were searching for the suspect.
But shortly after the mayhem, The Post found the suspect shuffling along East 138th Street.
"They didn't have any right to do that to me," the man said, pointing to a black left eye and bloody scab on the back of his head. "I'm homeless. I'm not going to steal from other homeless people.
"Better to steal from the store."