Three Black teenagers were recently shopping at a Nordstrom Rack in Brentwood Square, Missouri when suddenly they were wrongfully accused of stealing. A store employee reportedly called the police, but the three young men were cleared of any charges causing the Nordstrom president to personally apologize.
Mekhi Lee, Dirone Taylor, and Eric Rogers II were shopping for prom clothes at a Nordstrom Rack when they noticed some employees were following their every move around the store.
“I was nervous the whole time,” Lee recalled. “Every time we move, they move. When we looked up, they looked up.”
They were about to leave the store when Lee had to go back inside to get the baseball cap he left behind when he tried on a shirt. While Rogers and Taylor were waiting by the door, someone described as an elderly white woman called them punks and confronted them saying, ‘Are all your parents and grandparents proud of what you’re doing?’
“I knew it was coming but at the same time I was feeling embarrassed, agitated, mixed emotions with the whole situation because I knew that we didn’t deserve it,” Taylor said.
To prove a point, they decided to buy underwear and undershirts from the store. “We made the purchase to show them that we’re equal and we didn’t have to steal anything,” Rogers said.
When they left the store, they saw three police cars in the parking lot. The police officers told them they received a complaint from Nordstrom Rack that they were shoplifting. However, after an on-the-spot investigation, the police let them go without any charges.
“The police were actually good. They understood where we were coming from and they showed us that they were just doing their job,” Rogers said.
The St. Louis NAACP says it is getting involved and wants to work with Nordstrom Rack President Geevy Thomas on how to handle the situation and the employees.
“The discussion has to have some sustenance, it needs to be strategic, and it needs to have some measurable outcomes,” said Adolphus Pruitt, President of the St. Louis NAACP.
Thomas flew to St. Louis to personally apologize to the three young men. He will stay for the meantime to go over the policies and training of the employees.
In a statement, Nordstrom Rack said the employees were trying to respond to a verbal altercation in the store at the time: “We did not handle this situation well and we apologized to these young men and their families. We want all customers to feel welcome when they shop with us and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”