Nordstrom Rack Apologizes to Black Teenagers Falsely Accused of Stealing in St. Louis


“I appreciate the opportunity to listen to their concerns and offer our sincere apologies on behalf of Nordstrom,” Mr. Thomas said in a statement after the meeting. “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.”

Adolphus M. Pruitt II, the president of the St. Louis chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. who met with the friends after the episode, said that both the police and the men handled the situation perfectly. Inside the store, as the two employees were following them, the friends debated leaving but decided they would buy some items to show that the employees had been wrong, that they were not stealing and that they had money to spend, he said.

When the police arrived, the men cooperated with the officers, showed them their receipts and let them look inside their shopping bags and car, he said. The officers stressed that they were called out only because an employee had called 911.

The police realized they were not thieves and let them go.

“They allowed them to tell their side of the story, and the police told their side of the story,” Mr. Pruitt said on Tuesday. “In today’s day in time, it is remarkable. If we can get that to repeat itself as much as possible, boy, it would make my job easier.”

While Mr. Pruitt said he was disappointed by the employees at the store, he said he was encouraged by the company’s response. “It does demonstrate that they are reacting in the right way,” he said, comparing its response to that of Starbucks after the arrest in Philadelphia.

But he added that the recent cases underscored the need for employees to receive racial-bias training, which Starbucks will conduct on one day later this month for workers in more than 8,000 stores in the United States. Nordstrom has been reviewing its employee policies and considering changes to training at both its department stores and Nordstrom Rack, its discount shops.

“Black children — black teenagers and black males, especially — are looked at this way at retail stores all across the country,” Mr. Pruitt said. “What are they going to do that goes beyond employees at one store?”



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