- Three black teenagers were falsely accused of stealing from a Nordstrom Rack, with employees closely monitoring the trio as they shopped for prom clothing before calling the police.
- Nordstrom Rack apologized to the teens, with the president flying to St. Louis to speak with the families in person.
- The company is facing backlash after the incident, especially in light of other reports of people of color being mistreated at retailers and restaurants across the US.
Nordstrom Rack is under fire after three young black men were questioned by police without cause after employees thought they were shoplifting.
Mekhi Lee, Dirone Taylor and Eric Rogers II were shopping at a Nordstrom Rack in Brentwood, Missouri when they noticed they were being monitored by store employees, local news station KMOV reported. Lee, a freshman at Alabama A&M University, was accompanying Rogers and Taylor as they shopped for prom outfits.
“I was nervous the whole time,” Lee told KMOV. “Every time we move, they move. When we looked up, they looked up.”
While in the store, the teens said an elderly female customer reportedly called them “punks,” escalating the tense situation.
“When she called us a punk, and she didn’t have anything to do with the situation, everyone in the store is against us looking at us crazy, (and) we didn’t do anything,” Lee told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was totally embarrassed, and we’re the only ones defending ourselves against everyone in the store.”
Lee, Taylor, and Rogers left the store, only to be approached by police pulling into the parking lot. Police told the teens that they had received a call accusing three black men of theft. The teens were allowed to leave after an investigation, without charges.
The incident has sent shockwaves across the US. Retailers’ treatment of people of color, specifically black men, is under the microscope after a Starbucks manager called the police to arrest two black men at a Philadelphia location in April.
3 Black teenage boys were shopping @Nordstrom for prom clothes.
Police surrounded them when they left the store. They had been accused of theft.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) May 8, 2018
And were the Nordstrom Rack employees charged for filing a false police report since the TEENS didn’t steal anything? Hold them as accountable as you want to hold black people. https://t.co/rijvcWKPKf
— ???? ℜ???????????? ???????? ℭ???????????????????? ???? (@ReadInColour) May 8, 2018
So in just the past couple weeks, we've had white folk summon police on black folk for no discernible reason at:
➡️ Starbucks (waiting)
➡️ A golf club (golfing too slow)
➡️ An AirBnB (checking out)
➡️ Nordstrom Rack
Am I missing any?
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) May 8, 2018
“It makes me really furious because I pour so much into my son and I’ve raised him to do the right thing,” Lee’s mother told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’m a single mother raising an African-American male child, and I fear this, and now this fear has become reality … I’m heartbroken they had to go through that humiliation, (but) I’m so happy it went in a positive way, and police listened to their side of the story.”
Geevy Thomas, the president of Nordstrom Rack, has flown to St. Louis to apologize to the teenagers and their families, KMOV reported.
Nordstrom Rack did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
“We didn’t handle this situation well, and we apologized to these young men and their families,” Nordstrom Rack said in a statement to media outlets. “We’re enhancing our internal practices and trainings to help ensure this doesn’t happen again. We want all customers to feel welcome when they shop with us, and we don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind.”