05/08/2012 12:19 EDT | Updated 07/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Prisoner escapes in Moncton en route to St. John's

A search is underway after a man escaped his Correctional Service of Canada escort at the Greater Moncton International Airport in New Brunswick this morning.

Joshua Richard Whalen, 23, had just been released from the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., for firearms-related offences and was supposed to move to a halfway house in St. John’s.

Police say he was being delivered to the airport for a flight to Newfoundland and Labrador, but evaded his escort at 9:15 a.m. and got into a waiting car.

The escort reportedly gave chase, but lost him.

Codiac RCMP weren't called until about 45 minutes later, Const. Damien Thériault told CBC News.

A warrant has been issued for Whalen's arrest.

He's is not considered dangerous, said Thériault. But officials want him back behind bars, he said.

Whalen is described as Caucasian, five feet six inches tall, 143 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes.

Investigators are trying to figure out why Whalen would have run away, said Thériault.

He had served two-thirds of his sentence and was now on statutory release, heading back to his home province, he said.

"He basically walked away from the guards and got into a vehicle and left he has not yet been located."

Whalen had been caught with a loaded handgun and stun gun in the parking lot of the Avalon Mall in St. John's in 2009.

He had a 9-mm Beretta and body armour, the courts heard.

He was one of four people arrested and charged with weapons offences.

In April 2010, the Crown sought a six-year sentence for Whalen, citing his previous criminal record.

Whalen instead received four years and two months in jail, and was given double credit for more than 200 days already spent in custody.

That cut his remaining sentence to just over three years.