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'I was totally embarrassed': Black teens falsely accused of theft while prom shopping

Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack, is flying out to Missouri to apologize after 3 black teens were accused of theft while shopping at a store location in Brentwood. Mekhi Lee, a 19-year-old, shared his story about the incident.
Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack, is flying out to Missouri to apologize after 3 black teens were accused of theft while shopping at a store location in Brentwood. Mekhi Lee, a 19-year-old, shared his story about the incident. Screenshot from KMOV

Three black teenagers say they were shopping for prom clothes at a Nordstrom Rack when the cops were called.

Nineteen-year-old Mekhi Lee told KMOV that he and his friends Eric Rogers and Dirone Taylor were looking around the clothing store in Brentwood, Missouri, when they realized an employee was watching their every move. Lee is a freshman at Alabama A&M University, while Taylor and Rogers are graduating seniors at local high schools. Both Rogers and Taylor have full-ride college scholarships for football, KMOV reported.

"I was nervous the whole time," Lee told KMOV. "Every time we move, they move. When we looked up, they looked up."

Because of that, Lee said that he and his friends "moved to a farther part of the store" — but employees continued to watch them. He told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he nervously called his mom, who urged him to speak with a manager.

The teens never managed to find a manager, Lee said, and another customer came up to them and called one of the boys a "punk" before asking "are your parents proud of what you do?"

"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 Post-Dispatch. “I was totally embarrassed, and we’re the only ones defending ourselves against everyone in the store.”

Rogers said that he bought something from the store to send a message — but cops stopped him and his friends outside. Cops explained that a store employee accused them of theft, Rogers told KMOV, but let the trio go after an investigation.

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

Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack, is now flying out to personally apologize to the three teens, according to KMOV. The company released a statement saying it "didn't handle this situation well ... and we don't tolerate discrimination of any kind."

But Twyla Lee, mother of Mekhi Lee, said this type of incident is a nightmare because "she's raised him to do the right thing."

“I’m a single mother raising an African-American male child, and I fear this, and now this fear has become reality," she told the Post-Dispatch. "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.”

Twyla Lee took to Facebook to say this is a "teachable moment for all of us."

"I really dislike that my son and his long time friends had to experience this, however this is a sad reality for young Black men in America," she wrote. "(I'm) thankful for all of the positive law enforcement role models they had in their life so they knew how to express and handle themselves with law enforcement!"

Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton shares his experiences about being racially profiled as a young Catholic priest and after he became a bishop. He was not wearing clerical attire in both cases.

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