- Associated Press - Thursday, August 28, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - An Atlanta Police officer arrested Thursday while trying to catch a flight to Mexico has been charged in the slaying of a 26-year-old woman he met online.

Tahreem Zeus Rana, 23, is scheduled to appear in court Friday after being arrested at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where he was scheduled to board a plane to Monterrey, Mexico, according to a statement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Vernicia Woodard was shot Friday in the city of Hapeville after meeting Rana in person for the first time, Hapeville Police told WGCL-TV in Atlanta. Authorities told the TV station that Rana is charged with murder, arson and kidnapping in connection with her death.

Detective Stephen Cushing told the TV station that Woodard’s body was then burned “to cover up any type of evidence that may be there.”

Police told the TV station that they questioned Rana on Wednesday, but didn’t consider him a suspect until reviewing online correspondence. By then, they couldn’t find him, and notified U.S. Customs and Border Protection to watch for Rana at airports.

Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos Campos said in a statement that the department was “shocked and saddened.”

“We must allow the justice system to run its course,” Campos said. “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.”

Cushing said the case is surreal for members of the Hapeville Police Department who knew Rana from his childhood in the area.

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

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