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APD officer arrested for allegedly shooting girlfriend, setting her body on fire

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An Atlanta police officer was arrested Thursday for allegedly shooting his girlfriend multiple times and setting her body on fire in Hapeville. He was apprehended around 9:30 a.m. at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport by U.S. Customs Officials while attempting to board a flight to Monterey, Mexico, officials said.

Tahreem Zeus Rana, 23, was charged with murder, arson and kidnapping in the death of 26-year-old Vernicia Woodard, according to Hapeville police. The investigation began last Friday when a city employee found the woman’s body at the end of Elm Street and notified police, police spokesman Stephen Cushing said. Officers arrived on scene and noticed that the body was on fire, Cushing said.

“The victim was shot multiple times and then set on fire in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence,” Cushing said. Her body was found on a dead end street.

Rana had been with the police department for three years and had faced little disciplinary action, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The internal affairs file on Rana listed three vehicle accidents but showed he had been exonerated in one and admonished in a second. One from July was still unresolved, the paper reported.

Rana grew up in Hapeville and Detective Cushing told Channel 2 Action News he has known Rana for years.

“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.”

So far, police have not released a motive for the crime and they have not released any details on the circumstances surrounding the shooting or the location where the woman was shot. It’s also unclear what type of weapon was used in the shooting and if it has been found.

Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos released the following statement Thursday morning:
“We are shocked and saddened by these developments. The officer has been relieved from duty, and is in a non-enforcement status. Chief [George] 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.”