A Minnesota felon who escaped custody of Georgia deputies last week did so by slipping out of a rental car at the airport, authorities said Wednesday.
Joseph Harrison Baynes, 35, of Chaska, was captured Friday near Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia about 27 hours after he escaped two deputies who attempted to transport him to Minnesota under a warrant for harassment.
The Dakota County Sheriff announced the escape last week but did not 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. It clearly could have been prevented, I think.”
The deputies took Baynes into custody at 11:45 a.m. Thursday from the Bulloch County Jail. Once at the airport, while standing in traffic and waiting in line to return a rental car, “somehow the man opened the door and slipped out, and the chase was on”, said Leko. ‘How did he get out? We are investigating that part of it.”
Baynes was handcuffed at the time, Leko said, and had an electronic shock device on his ankle, which is used to restrain inmates. “I believe they tried, and I believe it didn’t work or didn’t work enough when he ran,” he said. “That’s part of the investigation.”
Baynes escaped to a heavily wooded area on the airport property with “alligators and water moccasins — it was a dangerous place,” Leko said.
Local, state and federal authorities searched for Baynes for several hours on Thursday before calling it quits. On Friday, around 4 p.m., Savannah police officers saw Baynes walking and approached him. Baynes, still handcuffed, fled before being taken into custody, Leko said.
“The main point, and why I couldn’t sleep, is that this man was on the run for more than 24 hours, and he poses a risk to public safety,” Leko said. “And we put a lot of pressure on their community down there, and worries and concerns. So I’m just glad they took him into custody.
Wanted for stalking
According to Minnesota court records, Baynes has a long criminal history.
He has five felony convictions as a predatory offender who “knowingly violates registration requirements or willfully provides false information” in Wright, Carver and Anoka counties.
In addition, he has felony convictions for domestic violence, one in Anoka County and one in Wright County. He has a range of other felony convictions for terrorist threats, drunk driving, brawling or fighting, running from a peace officer, assault and speeding.
Dakota County authorities issued a nationwide warrant for the arrest of Baynes on June 13, when he was charged with harassment and stalking.
According to the indictment, a woman reported to Lakeville police on June 1 that she had received calls and text messages from Baynes, her ex-boyfriend, in violation of a protection order issued in April in Dakota County.
“In her report (she) documented a series of breaches of order that had taken place,” the indictment says.
Baynes called the woman on May 31, and a person who was with her answered her phone. During the call, which was answered over speakerphone, Baynes yelled and demanded the woman come on the phone. He threatened to “slit the throat of the person who answered the call ‘ear to ear’ and told him (the woman) to tell him that he would kill her,” the indictment said.
Later that day, Baynes attempted to call the woman about 20 times. The next day, he left her two voicemail messages, including one in which he admitted to being aware of the restraining order, the indictment said.
Baynes texted the woman on June 1 and 3. On June 4, she received a text message from Baynes requesting that she contact him from the Bulloch County Jail where he was being held, the indictment says.
According to Georgia court records, Baynes had been arrested that day by Georgia Southern Police on charges of theft, obstruction of a law enforcement officer, possession and use of drug-related items, and possession of tools for the commission of a felony.
Baynes left the woman a voicemail on June 7, according to the Dakota County complaint, which adds that she “told law enforcement and others that these communications have left her fearing for her life.”
Baynes pleaded guilty to three of the Georgia charges, disallowing possession of tools for the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to five years of probation on July 27.
The apparent end of that case prompted Dakota County deputies to fly to Georgia to pick up Baynes, who had waived extradition to Minnesota.
Leko said that after Baynes’ escape from his deputies’ custody, the sheriff’s office contacted the Lakeville woman and “took steps and precautions to make sure she was safe.”
‘Must get back down there’
Baynes is incarcerated in the Bulloch County Jail, awaiting charges for violating his probation. Prosecutors are also considering charges related to the escape, Leko said.
The plan is to extradite Baynes to Minnesota in the coming weeks, Leko said.
“We have to go back down and get him,” he said. “I told someone I’ll go down and get that man back up here. It was kind of tongue-and-cheek, but that won’t happen again.