CHICAGO (CBS) — A decade ago, before he became known as a suspected serial killer, Darren Vann was an abuser of women, who at one point threatened to set himself and his girlfriend on fire.

In the grainy image, Vann is speaking with Gary police outside a home as he grips the terrified woman around her neck.

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This week, Vann was charged with the murder of a young woman at a hotel in Hammond and is suspected in the murders of at least six other women, whose bodies were recovered by authorities in Gary after Vann provided information on the victims’ location.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams spoke with an investigator in the 2004 incident, former Gary police officer Joe Hamer.

Hamer doesn’t need to see the photo to recall exactly what happened 10 years ago. It was in the 400 block of Madison in Gary that Darren Vann doused himself and his girlfriend with gasoline and threatened to ignite them both.

Hamer, then a patrolman, responded to a 911 call.

“He throws the gas can he says ‘everybody get back or I’ll light this woman on fire’ and obviously he use a different wording,” Hamer said.

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“She was irate. She was screaming, ‘Get him off of me, get me out of here, Help me! Help me! Help me!”

Vann said his name was Harvey and Hamer tried to reason with him.

“’I said Harvey, let me talk to you. I don’t want this to go bad. Just let me come closer.’ He said, ‘No you’re going to shoot me,’” Hamer said.

So Hamer gave his gun to a colleague and got closer. He and other officers eventually grabbed Vann, now a suspected serial killer.

“I really don’t know what to think. my mind has not stopped,” Hamer said.

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Joe Hamer left the Gary Police Department three years ago and now works for Lake County Sheriff. The Lake County prosecutor’s office told us Vann was charged with a felony in that incident. He was given probation. They didn’t explain why the sentence was that light.