Nordstrom Rack apologizes for falsely accusing black teens of stealing

Nordstrom Rack apologizes for falsely accusing black teens of stealing
Nordstrom Rack apologizes for falsely accusing black teens of stealing

The president of Nordstrom Rack has apologized in person to three African-American teenagers after they were falsely accused of stealing from a store in Missouri.

Dirone Taylor, Mekhi Lee and Eric Rogers II said they were shopping on Thursday at a Nordstrom Rack in Brentwood, near St. Louis, when store employees called the police on them and accused them of shoplifting. The police showed up but determined there was no crime.

Nordstrom Rack President Geevy Thomas met with the teenagers and their families on Tuesday, the company said in a statement.

Thomas said he appreciated "the opportunity to listen to their concerns and offer our sincere apologies on behalf of Nordstrom." He thanked the teenagers "for their poise in dealing with local law enforcement."

Nordstrom Rack is a subsidiary of Nordstrom (JWN).

Thomas said the company is carrying out "a thorough internal investigation of the actions taken by our employees." A guideline that employees should only call police in emergency situations was not followed, according to Nordstrom.

The three teenagers had expressed their views on the incident ahead of the meeting with Thomas.

"I don't want it to happen to anyone else. I want to see what repercussions will happen," said Taylor, who graduates from De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis on May 20.

Related: Starbucks to close 8,000 stores for racial-bias training

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, said in a statement that the three students, Taylor, Lee, and Rogers, "were guilty of nothing but shopping while being black."

"These are good kids," Pruitt told CNN. "The most remarkable thing was, when I asked them, what do you want [from Nordstrom Rack], they said, make sure no other black kids and their families have to go through the same thing."

Rogers, who graduates May 22 from East St. Louis Senior High School, told CNN that he and his friends are used to being watched in stores, but this time was different.

"I felt like I was unequal," Rogers said. "By them calling the police, with everything going on, anything we could have done could have affected us, and could have drastically affected our lives. In a way, I was scared. But I couldn't show it."

Taylor and Rogers were shopping for shirts for prom.

The third student, Lee, a freshman at Alabama A&M, said he felt "overwhelmed, embarrassed and humiliated."

Chief Joseph Spiess of the Brentwood Police Department spoke to CNN and credited the three responding officers for their patience.

"They [the teens] were a bit confrontational with the officers initially, and then the officers explained why they were there," said Spiess.

Related: Starbucks has a bold plan to address racial bias. Will it work?

He said the officers had the dispatcher re-broadcast the call for them "so that the teens could hear the report, which really helped. They got it."

"The success story here on our end -- [was that] the officers really let these kids talk, the officers figured out they weren't stealing, they had receipts for what they had," said Spiess. "Police then talked to the Nordstrom Rack people and explained there was no crime."

This is the latest racially charged incident to involve a major company in 2018. Last month, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for trespassing after they sat in a store without buying anything. Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Kevin Johnson later met with the men and apologized, according to the company. He also apologized publicly, calling the incident "reprehensible."

Starbucks is planning to close 8,000 stores on May 29 for racial bias training.

- Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report

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