May 8, 2018 10:41 pm

3 black teens falsely accused of shoplifting at Nordstrom Rack while buying prom clothes

This Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, photo, shows a Nordstrom Rack store in Miami.

AP Photo/Alan Diaz
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Officials at Nordstrom Rack have apologized to three black shoppers who say they were falsely accused of stealing from a suburban St. Louis store.

Police were called to a Brentwood store on Thursday while 19-year-old college student Mekhi Lee and high school seniors Eric Rogers and Dirone Taylor were shopping for prom clothes.

READ MORE: Black men arrested at Philadelphia Starbucks settle with city for $1 each, $200K pledge


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Police reports say the teens left the store and then were approached by police. When they showed their receipts from the store, police allowed them to leave.

Lee told Fox 2 News that the group re-entered the store and asked to talk to a manager.

“They were rude to us by not letting us talking to the manager and said we can only talk to the police,” Lee told Fox 2.

“I was nervous, embarrassed and humiliated,” Lee said.

Nordstrom Rack apologized in a statement, saying it is enhancing its practices and training. The company said its president, Geevy Thomas, met with the three shoppers’ families on Tuesday to listen to their concerns and express disappointment that the situation occurred.

It’s a similar incident to one from a month ago when two black men were arrested while sitting at a Starbucks. In that instance, the men said they were merely waiting for a friend before ordering. The city of Philadelphia settled a civil suit, offering a symbolic $1 payout to the men, and a promise to set up a program for young entrepreneurs.

But the trend is worrying, according to experts.

St. Louis NAACP president Adolphus Pruitt II told the Washington Post that an apology is not a permanent solution.

“These kids, they’re owed an apology, but at the end of the day, it goes down to, ‘What can we do to keep this from happening to folks?” Pruitt said.

READ MORE: Starbucks incident blamed on ‘unconscious bias’ — what is it and how do we curb it?

On Tuesday, Nordstrom executives flew down to St. Louis to meet and apologize to the teens. Pruitt was at the meeting. In a statement following the meeting, Nordstrom Rack president Thomas said the store is committed to creating a respectful environment.

“I feel fortunate to have met these young men and their families. 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,” Thomas wrote in the statement.

As for Lee, he says he would rather people learn from the incident.

“I don’t want them to fire anyone… I want them to teach them and make this a teaching moment and everybody move forward and get better,” Lee said.

*with files from the Associated Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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