Haddon Heights Shooting Leaves Two Cops Dead


search warrant results in deadly shooting

Haddon Heights New Jersey is a beautiful, safe town.  It is often ranked as one of the nicest towns in the state.  Sadly, on April 20, 1995, it was the scene of a horrific shooting that left two cops dead and another fighting for his life. 

On that day a team of cops and investigators from the Haddon Heights Police Department and the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office went to the home of Leslie Nelson to interview her about an allegation of abuse and menacing from her 3-year-old niece.  Nelson was a transgender female who had been convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm several years earlier. She had had a sex change operation 3 years prior, but that did not negate her felony conviction.  During the interview, Nelson mentioned that she had a firearm in the house.  It was decided that the cops would leave and come back with a search warrant as possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is illegal. 

Later, with warrant in hand, the cops came back to the house.  Nelson had been cooperative earlier in the day, and they had no reason to expect any different response.  Investigator John McLaughlin from Camden County and Detective Sergeant Richard Norcross from Haddon Heights PD were let in by Leslie Nelson’s elderly parents, while other officers surrounded possible escape routes.

When they approached Nelson’s room, she suddenly appeared brandishing a scoped AK-47.  Without a word the perp opened fire.  McLaughlin was struck numerous times and was killed immediately.  Norcross was shot in the chest, arm, and leg, but was able to get out of the house when Nelson’s mother tried to stop the deranged shooter. 

Nelson soon wrested free of her mother and began shooting out the windows of her house.  As the officer down call went over the radio, cops from all over the area responded.  Mount Ephraim Officer Victor Player responded, saw Norcross badly wounded and pulled his car into the line of fire.  He hustled the injured officer into his squad car and rushed him to the hospital, saving his life.

One of the other officers who responded was Haddon Heights Police Officer John Norcross.  As he was evacuating neighbors to get them clear of the gunfire, he was also shot.  Nelson used the scope on her AK-47 to shoot him directly in the head.  He died instantly. 

A 14-hour standoff ensured.  Negotiations, tear gas grenades, and other measured finally worked in getting Leslie Nelson to surrender.  She came out wearing a gas mask, bullet proof vest, and a halter top with her hands up. 

Nelson was convicted of the murder of the two officers and sentenced to life in prison.  She is eligible for parole in 2048 at the age of 90.

Christopher Flanagan


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