Then, he held him in a headlock while dialing 911.
But before police arrived, the alleged thief broke free and wrestled Nelson's co-worker, Oscar Castelan, after reportedly threatening to stab them with a hypodermic syringe.
The melee ended moments later, only after a gathering crowd taunted the clerks, ordering them to back off.
Some neighbors we spoke with insisted the crowd was right.
"They went too far," said Abraham Jiménez, a neighbor.
"I'm not no hero, I was just protecting my store," Lozada said.
Late this afternoon, Lozada told Eyewitness News he simply did what he had to do.
"I would be with him, I think he did the right thing," said Wanda Balines, a neighbor.
All of the merchandise was recovered, but the NYPD says the alleged shoplifter remains at large and has yet to be arrested.
A spokesman for Autozone did not return phone calls made late Tuesday afternoon.