Allegheny County

1930s gangsters, gang killings, prison escape: Ross Twp. police want to find former chief’s family

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Ross Township police are asking for the public’s help in tracking down family members of a former police chief killed by a gang in 1932.

According to a social media post, Chief Vernon Porter Moses was shot and killed while trying to arrest members of the John Maug Gang on May 3, 1932. The deadly shooting happened at the intersection of Perry Highway and West View Avenue, which is near what is now the Port Authority bus garage.

The John Maug Gang was “terrorizing Allegheny County” with a number of burglaries, armed robberies and shootings of police officers.

Moses observed the gang on a local road and started a pursuit. He was able to pull in front of and stop the gang’s vehicle. Gang members got out and shot Moses in the right shoulder and face before taking off toward Pittsburgh and throwing their guns in the Monongahela River.

The Ross Police Department would like your help! On May 3rd. 1932 Ross Police Chief Vernon Porter Moses was shot and...

Posted by Ross Township Police Department on Thursday, November 11, 2021

The gang was eventually put on trial for Moses’ killing. John Maug and Ed Turpack were sentenced to 70-140 years behind bars. There were dozens upon dozens of armed officers at the courthouse for the trial over fears the gang would attempt an escape. Those fears were well-founded as Maug and Turpack were able to escape from the Western Penitentiary in 1933. They created dummies to fill their jail cell bunks so guard doing inmate counts thought they were seeing their bodies.

Maug and Turpack were able to climb down a rope that was attached to the roof of the prison’s chapel. Maug and Turpack were arrested again later that year trying to rob a Western Union in Colorado and spent the rest of their lives in prison.

Next year will be the 90th anniversary of Moses’ death and police in Ross would like to find his relatives to talk about his remembrance.

If you have any information, you’re asked to call police at 412-931-9070.