Atlanta cop linked to homicide waives first court appearance

An Atlanta police officer arrested Thursday on charges that he killed a woman a week ago in Hapeville and set her body on fire will remain behind bars after he waived his first court appearance Friday afternoon.

Rana will remain jailed without bond until his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 12 in Fulton Superior Court.

Investigators linked the gruesome homicide to APD Officer Tahreem Zeus Rana through the woman’s phone records, Hapeville Police Chief Richard Glavosek said Thursday.

Glavosek told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Vernicia Woodard’s phone records led to Rana. Detectives then located Woodard’s posting on Backpage.com, a classified and hook-up website, where investigators believe the couple met, Glavosek said.

The fact that it was the 23-year-old Rana shocked officers, not only because he was a lawman but because some officers remember him as a kid growing up in Hapeville, Glavosek said.

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“They remember him walking to school with his mother,” the chief said.

Officers arrested Rana around 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, according to Channel 2 Action News. They say he was headed to Monterrey, Mexico, which may have been a stop on the way to India. Rana was on the no-fly list.

Hapeville police booked Rana into the Fulton County jail Thursday on charges of murder, arson, kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the killing of 26-year-old Woodard. He is accused of shooting her multiple times last Friday.

A city worker found Woodard’s body burning along Elm Street in the south Fulton town. GBI was brought in to assist and investigators believe the body was set on fire to destroy evidence.

The lead Hapeville detective on the case, Stephen Cushing, told Channel 2 Action News that investigating Rana was almost surreal because of the young man’s long ambition to become a cop.

“I’ve been a police officer in the 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.

Rana pursued the ambition with an associate degree in criminal justice at Atlanta Metropolitan State College, according to his APD personnel file. The file’s paperwork said he earned a dual degree with honors in 2011.

Over past the three years on the force, his evaluations rated him as effective to highly effective in performance of his duties. He faced little disciplinary action, according to APD documents.

The internal affairs file on Rana obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution listed three vehicle accidents. He had been exonerated in one and admonished in a second. One from July was still unresolved.

Atlanta police moved to relieve Rana of his duties on Thursday. Spokesman Carlos Campos described the department as “shocked and saddened.”

“We must allow the justice system to run its course,” Campos said. “But these clearly are very disturbing allegations.”

Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this article.

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