APD officer arrested in murder of 26-year-old woman

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HAPEVILLE, Ga. —

Hapeville police have arrested an Atlanta police officer wanted in the murder of a 26-year-old woman.

Police issued a wanted poster for Tahreem Zeus Rana, 23, on Wednesday.

They say he is a city of Atlanta police officer and their No. 1 suspect in the death of Vernicia Woodard.

A Hapeville city worker found Woodard’s body on fire along Elm Street on Aug. 22.

"He took her to a secluded area to do the crime and then, after killing her, used some kind of fuel to light her body on fire," said Hapeville police Detective Stephen Cushing.

The GBI was called in to help, and investigators say the body was lit on fire in an effort to destroy evidence. 

Officers arrested Rana around 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. They say he was headed to Monterey, Mexico, which may have been a stop on the way to India. Rana was on the no-fly list. 

Hapeville police say Rana will be charged with murder, arson and kidnapping. Channel 2 Action News cameras captured Rana being walked into the Hapeville Police Department for questioning.

Rana has a first appearance before a judge scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday.

Hapeville Police Chief Richard Glavosek told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that investigators linked Rana to the gruesome crime using the victim's cellphone records. Police believe Rana may have used his service weapon to shoot Woodard.

A detective told Channel 2 Action News Rana met Woodard on Craigslist.com.

Woodard leaves behind an 8-year-old daughter.

Personnel files say Rana has served with APD since 2011 and had never faced any disciplinary action.  He was assigned to the crime suppression unit in southwest Atlanta. His record shows three car accidents, but nothing else.

Fellow officers described him as a hard-working cop.

Atlanta police told Channel 2 Action News, "We are shocked and saddened by these developments.  The officer has been relieved from duty, and is in a non-enforcement status."

Channel 2's Ryan Young spoke to the victim's family Thursday afternoon.

"Being someone who works in law enforcement, it hurts a lot more to know that it was somebody in law enforcement," said Woodard's sister, Tashara Gilyard.

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner will hold an emergency hearing on the case on Thursday.

Rana grew up in Hapeville and one of the detectives involved in the case says he has known Rana since he was a kid.

"I've been a police officer in city of Hapeville for 15 years and actually saw this young man grow up and heard him say, 'When I grow up, I want to be a police officer," Cushing said. "And then, later, to be the one that is actually investigating him in this case."