A Minnesota felon who escaped the custody of Dakota County officials in Georgia last week did so by slipping out of a rental car at the airport, authorities said Wednesday.

Joseph Harrison Baynes, 35, of Chaska, was arrested near Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia on Friday, about 27 hours after he escaped from two police officers who were trying to take him to Minnesota on a warrant for harassment of a felony transport.

Joseph Harrison Baynes (Courtesy of the Bulloch County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office)

The Dakota County Sheriff announced the escape last week but didn’t explain how it happened.

Sheriff Joe Leko provided some details on Wednesday, adding that an internal investigation is underway to “find out exactly how this all happened.” Obviously, in my opinion, it could have been prevented.”

Officers took Baynes into their custody at 11:45 a.m. Thursday from the Bulloch County jail. When we got to the airport and were stuck in traffic and waiting in line for a rental car return, “the guy kind of opened the door and slipped out, and the chase began,” Leko said. “How did he get out? We’re investigating that part of it.”

Baynes was handcuffed at the time, Leko said, and wore a stun gun around his ankle, which is used to restrain inmates. “I think they tried, and I think it didn’t work or didn’t work enough in the run,” he said. “It’s part of the investigation.”

Baynes fled to a densely forested area on the airport property that had “alligators and water moccasins — it was a dangerous place,” Leko said.

Local, state and federal agencies searched for Baynes for several hours Thursday before calling it quits. Around 4 p.m. Friday, Savannah police officers spotted Baynes walking and approached him. Baynes, still in handcuffs, escaped before being taken into custody, Leko said.

“The main point and reason why I couldn’t sleep is that this guy has been on the run for more than 24 hours and poses a risk to public safety,” Leko said. “And we’re putting a lot of pressure on their community down there and worrying and worrying. So I’m just glad they took him into custody.”

Wanted for stalking

According to court records in Minnesota, Baynes has a long criminal history.

He was convicted five times in Wright, Carver, and Anoka counties of a robbery that “knowingly violates registration requirements or knowingly provides false information.”

He has also been convicted of domestic violence, once in Anoka County and once in Wright County. He has a number of other convictions for making terrorist threats, driving under the influence of alcohol, fighting or fighting, fleeing a peace officer, assault and speeding.

Dakota County authorities issued a statewide arrest warrant for Baynes on June 13 on charges of molestation and stalking.

According to the criminal complaint, a woman reported to Lakeville police on June 1 that she received calls and texts from Baynes, her ex-boyfriend, in violation of a protective order issued in Dakota County in April.

“In her report, she documented a number of violations of the order,” the complaint reads.

Baynes called the woman May 31 and a person who was with her picked up her phone. During the call, which was answered on the speakerphone, Baynes screamed and demanded that the woman pick up the phone. He threatened “to slit the throat of the person who answered the call ‘ear to ear’ and told him to tell (the woman) he was going to kill her,” the complaint reads.

Later in the day, Baynes tried about 20 times to call the woman. The next day, he left her two voice messages, including one confirming he knew about the restraining order, the complaint said.

Baynes texted the woman on June 1 and 3. On June 4, she received a text message from Baynes asking that she be contacted from the Bulloch County Jail where he was being held, the complaint said.

According to Georgia court records, Baynes was arrested that day by Georgia Southern Police on charges of theft, obstructing a police officer, possession and use of drug-related items, and possession of tools to commit a crime.

Baynes left the woman a voice message on June 7, according to Dakota County’s complaint, saying that she “has expressed to law enforcement and others that these communications caused her to fear for her life.”

Baynes pleaded guilty to three of the Georgia charges, dismissing possession of tools to commit a crime. On July 27, he was sentenced to five years’ probation.

The apparent end of that case prompted Dakota County officials to fly to Georgia to pick up Baynes, who had waived extradition to Minnesota.

Leko said that after Baynes escaped from the custody of his deputies, the sheriff’s office contacted the Lakeville woman and “took steps and precautions to ensure that she was safe.”

“Have to go back down there”

Baynes is being held in the Bulloch County Jail awaiting charges for violating his probation terms. Prosecutors are also considering charges related to the escape, Leko said.

The plan is to extradite Baynes to Minnesota in the next few weeks, Leko said.

“We have to go back there and get him,” he said. “I told someone I’m going to go down and make sure that guy comes back here. It was kind of a wink, but that won’t happen again.”