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Police officer accused of killing, burning New York woman on first date

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Tahreem Zeus Rana, a police officer in Atlanta, is accused of killing a 26-year-old woman he met on Craigslist then burning her body to get rid of the evidence. (Photo: CBS46)

Tahreem Zeus Rana, a police officer in Atlanta, is accused of killing a 26-year-old woman he met on Craigslist then burning her body to get rid of the evidence. (Photo: CBS46)

HAPEVILLE, Ga. (WGCL) — A 26-year-old woman recently moved from New York to Atlanta was shot to death and then her body was burned in a secluded area, allegedly during her first “date” with a police officer whom she met online.

The Hapeville Police Department issued arrest warrants for Tahreem Zeus Rana on the charges of murder, arson and kidnapping. He was arrested about 9 a.m. Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport while he was trying to get on a flight to Mexico.

On Aug. 22, a Hapeville city employee found the body of a woman on fire at the end of Elm Street.

Police said the woman, Vernicia Woodard, 26, was shot multiple times and set on fire.

“First he took her to a secluded area to do the crime and then after killing her, he used some kind of fuel to light the body on fire in order to cover up any type of evidence that may be there,” said Detective Stephen Cushing.

Hapeville police said Rana and Woodard met on Craigslist for a “romantic exchange” and the night she was killed was the first time they had met in person.

Veronica Woodward, 26, was killed allegedly by a police officer in Georgia. (Photo: CBS46)

Veronica Woodward, 26, was killed allegedly by a police officer in Georgia. (Photo: CBS46)

Rana was questioned Wednesday by police. Later in the day evidence at the scene and Internet correspondence led them to consider him a suspect, but police couldn’t find him.

Rana is currently employed by the City of Atlanta Police Department as a police officer. He was supposed to go to work Wednesday night but never showed up.

Police put Rana on the no-fly list, let him get through security to ensure he was not armed, then moved in to arrest him.

“We are shocked and saddened by these developments. The officer has been relieved from duty, and is in a non-enforcement status. Chief Turner will schedule an emergency hearing immediately today to determine the next course of action. We must allow the justice system to run its course. But these clearly are very disturbing allegations that are not in line with the expectations we have for our officers, and will be immediately dealt with,” said APD Public Affairs Director Carlos Campos.

Rana grew up in Hapeville. Officers there said they knew his family.

“It’s very saddening to many of the people here,” said Cushing. “Officers actually remember him walking to school here as a young boy saying when I grow up I want to be a police officer. It’s very disheartening to see somebody you grew up with, seeing a young boy change his life and go this route.”

Woodard had just moved to Atlanta from New York. She does have some family in the area.

Police have not said what might have led to her death.

Rana is now in the Fulton County Jail and will appear in court Friday morning.