In the current trend of calling the police on Black people around the country for doing ordinary things like golfing, going to Starbucks or renting an Airbnb, three Black males were falsely accused of theft when prom shopping in the St. Louis, Mo., area.
Eric Rogers and Dirone Taylor, both high school seniors, and Mekhi Lee, a freshman at Alabama A&M University, chose to shop at Brentwood Square Nordstrom Rack on Thursday. They began to notice several employees watching them and following them around the store.
“I was nervous the whole time,” Lee told KMOV. “Every time we move, they move. When we looked up, they looked up.”
The teens said a customer in the store who assumed they were stealing called them punks and asked them, “Are your parents proud of you for what you do”
A store employee called the police and said the teens had shoplifted. So when the three left the store, police surrounded them in the parking lot.
Lee said they showed authorities what they had bought and a store receipt. Authorities let the young men go without charges.
“The police let us [tell] our story,” Lee told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The police did their job. They also read us the police report where Nordstrom [Rack] said we had stolen several items.”
Nordstrom Rack is the discount arm of the Seattle-based luxury retailer, Nordstrom Inc., which has a C-suite with only two women (Kelley Hall became chief accounting officer and treasurer in August), no Blacks, and one Latino, who is retiring this month. The Nordstrom brothers, Erik, Pete and Blake, are co-presidents of the company.
CNBC reported in January that “a large share of Nordstrom’s growth of late has stemmed from Rack.”
That could explain why Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack, was quick to fly to St. Louis to apologize to the teens in person on Tuesday.
“I feel fortunate to have met these young men and their families,” Thomas said in a statement. “I appreciate the opportunity to listen to their concerns and offer our sincere apologies on behalf of Nordstrom. I also want to thank the young men for their poise in dealing with local law enforcement and the police themselves for handling the situation professionally.”
Lee’s mother, Twyla Lee, said her son’s experience is something she has always feared.
“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,” she told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.