An Atlanta police officer was arrested trying to leave the country Thursday, nearly one week after he kidnapped a woman he met online, took her to a secluded suburban area, shot her and then set her dead body on fire, police say.
Tahreem Zeus Rana, 23, was caught around 8:30 a.m. Thursday after he tried to board a flight to Monterey, Mexico, possibly en route to India, WSB-TV reported.
The murder suspect was on the no-fly list, cops said, and has since been fired.
“We are shocked and saddened by these developments,” the department said of the three-year veteran. “The officer has been relieved from duty, and is in a non-enforcement status.”
Rana met 26-year-old Vernicia Woodard on Backpage.com for a “romantic exchange” in Rana’s hometown of Hapeville, a southern Atlanta suburb, police there said. He took the woman to a rural part of the town, shot her several times, then lit her on fire, police said.
A city worker found the burning body on Elm Street the morning of Aug. 22, the news station reported.
Police believe he used his service weapon to kill the Woodard, mother to an 8-year-old. He became the prime suspect after the woman’s phone records led investigators to Backpage.com and eventually Rana, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
A “wanted” poster featuring Rana’s picture was released to the public Wednesday.
The murder comes as a shock to Hapeville police officers, who recalled watching Rana grow up in the community. He had a clean disciplinary file.
“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,” Det. Cushing told the station.
Rana faces charges of murder, arson, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. He’s next due in court Sept. 12.
“Being someone who works in law enforcement … it hurts a lot more to know that it was somebody in law enforcement,” Woodard’s sister, Tashara Gilyard, told WSB as she held back tears.