Nordstrom Rack apologizes after three black teens are wrongly accused of shoplifting

Nordstrom Rack has issued an apology after employees allegedly called the police and falsely accused three black teens of shoplifting.

The teenagers – Mekhi Lee, Dirone Taylor and Eric Rogers II — were shopping for prom clothes at the discount fashion retailer in St. Louis, Miss., on Thursday, when they said employees started following them.

"I was nervous the whole time," said Lee to KMOV. "Every time we moved, they moved. When we looked up, they looked up.”

While in the store, the three said they were also harassed by a customer who allegedly called them "punks" and asked, “Are your parents proud of you for what you do?” KMOV reported.

Nordstrom Teen

Mekhi Lee was one of the three teenagers wrongly accused of stealing from the major retailer.  (Fox 31)

An altercation then broke out amomg the three and that customer, they said.

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When the teenagers finally left the Nordstrom Rack, they said the police were waiting for them in the parking lot. They allegedly told the students the shop had called and accused them of theft, KMOV reported.

"The police were actually good. They understood where we were coming from and they showed us that they were just doing their job," said Rogers to KMOV.

Chief Joseph Spiess of the Brentwood Police Department told CNN the responding officers re-broadcast the store’s phone call for the three “so that the teens could hear the reports, which really helped. They got it.”

After an investigation, the police let the three teenagers go without charges.

Rogers said the group did have items from the store — but only ones they had purchased.

People walk past the Nordstrom Rack store, in New York's Union Square, May 21, 2010.  This month's opening of the Nordstrom Rack store in the heart of Manhattan shows just how far outlet stores have come, from being distant outposts for liquidating unsold inventory to taking center-stage in retailers' growth strategies. To match Analysis: USA-RETAIL/OUTLETS  Picture taken May 21, 2010. REUTERS/Chip East (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS) - GM1E65N1QUP01

The company said in a statement that their protocol had not been properly followed and resulted in the police being called without need.  (Reuters)

"We made the purchase to show them that we're equal and we didn't have to steal anything," said Rogers. 

“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.”

The company said in a statement that their protocol had not been properly followed and resulted in the police being called without need.

“Recently there was a situation in one of our Rack stores that resulted in our employees calling the police. We have guidelines that direct our employees to only call the police in emergency situations. Unfortunately, those guidelines weren’t followed.  

"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."

- Nordstrom President, Geevy Thomas

As soon as store executives became aware of the incident, Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack, reached out personally to each of the impacted families.

He even flew to St. Louis to personally apologize to each of the boys and families affected.

“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,” he said in a statement to Fox News.

“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. 

“We want to make sure we have a full understanding of the situation. We are conducting a thorough internal investigation of the actions taken by our employees and are moving quickly to understand where we have opportunities to improve and take action. We are committed to ensuring our processes and guidelines are well understood by our employees, and identifying opportunities to enhance the training and resources we offer them,” he continued.

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According to KMOV, the St. Louis NAACP is getting involved and wants to work with Nordstrom Rack’s president about employee training.

Alexandra Deabler is a Lifestyle writer and editor for Fox News.