Had West Liberty University officials not done the job law enforcement authorities in Florida should have, Vernon Dunnom might still be in jail, or perhaps on his way to a cell in that state.
The failure of Sunshine State police and prosecutors to do their jobs properly is inexcusable.
Dunnom, a student athlete at the university, was arrested last Friday and sent to the Northern Regional Jail. He was taken into custody on the strength of a warrant from a Florida judge, charging him with murder, among other offenses. That was issued after a man wounded in a Nov. 16 confrontation in Miami said Dunnom was involved in the shooting, in which another man was killed. The identification was made through a high school yearbook photo of Dunnom when he was 16.
Dunnom is now 24 and his appearance has changed substantially since he was a child living in Florida.
When he was arrested at his dormitory, Dunnom protested he is innocent of the crimes in Florida.
University staff began checking Dunnom's whereabouts on and around Nov. 16. What they learned is disturbing, in a way.
Ample proof in the form of eyewitnesses, documents and surveillance videotape exists that Dunnom was in or near West Liberty on Nov. 16. In fact, two hours before the fatal shooting occurred, it appears he was eating dinner at the Liberty Tavern near the university campus.
It required only a few hours' investigation by university officials to find that evidence. After it was presented to a prosecutor in Florida, the charges against Dunnom were dismissed. He was released from jail on Monday.
Florida law enforcement officials could have undertaken the same investigation. Remember, the shooting occurred on Nov. 16. If Dunnom had been a flight risk, why did he remain at the university until his arrest, nearly a month later?
But it was left to university staff to clear Dunnom. Thank heaven they did so, or he might be in a Florida jail cell right now.
The warrant for Dunnom's arrest was signed by a judge in Florida. No doubt it was based on his belief police and prosecutors conducted a proper investigation before seeking the warrant.
They did not. As a result, an innocent man was accused of murder and spent three days in jail before being cleared. That Sunshine State judge ought to be furious - and should follow up with action against those responsible for the false arrest.