Australian DJ allegedly kidnaps child as mother screams for help

Roscoe Holyoake, 34, is accused of snatching the toddler in the Castro

The suspect being detained by a bystander in a Castro kidnapping (Courtesy Gregory Rice)

An Australian disc jockey facing a kidnapping charge for allegedly grabbing a two-year-old child as he walked behind his mother in the Castro appeared in court for the first time Tuesday.

Roscoe Holyoake, 34, is accused of snatching the toddler near the intersection of Market and 17th streets last Friday. Bystanders detained Holyoake after the mother screamed for help and he allegedly tried to run away from the scene.

The child was not injured but suffered redness on his arms, prosecutors said.

Holyoake, who performs under the name DJ Roski, walked into the courtroom at the Hall of Justice wearing an orange jail jumpsuit. A slight man with graying hair on the sides, he spoke quietly and kept his eyes down.

His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Stephen Olmo, declined to enter a plea on behalf of his client until Thursday, when a San Francisco Superior Court judge will also decide whether to detain him without bail awaiting trial.

Outside the courtroom, Olmo suggested that the allegations were out of character for his client.

“He has no criminal record,” Olmo told reporters. “He has been in this country many times doing charitable work, disc jockey work.”

Court records show Holyoake is an Australian citizen who is in the U.S. on a visa through 2023.

Olmo said Holyoake was in San Francisco on business at the time of his arrest, but that he had not had a chance to review the facts of the case or speak with his client privately.

“I haven’t read a single sheet of the discovery,” Olmo said. “I’m just the guy that got assigned to the case ten minutes ago.”

Assistant District Attorney Brooke Jenkins described the allegations against Holyoake in a motion seeking to hold Holyoake without bail.

The kidnapping unfolded as the mother was pushing a stroller on 17th Street with her two-year-old son following closely behind her, according to the motion. The mother was putting her cellphone in her pocket when she allegedly saw Holyoake carrying her son with his arms wrapped around the child’s buttocks.

The court records describe a tug-of-war over the child between Holyoake and the mother, who began screaming.

“What are you doing!?” the mother yelled.

Holyoake allegedly began to run down 17th Street toward Noe Street with bystanders in pursuit.

Witnesses told the San Francisco Examiner that Holyoake turned left onto Noe Street and was detained halfway down the block in front of a tanning salon.

The Examiner obtained a video of the arrest.

Adam Walker, one of the bystanders who intervened, said he started chasing Holyoake after hearing the mother scream.

After he too yelled for help, a group of bystanders cut off the suspect and helped corner him.

Walker held Holyoake against the wall until police arrived and arrested him. Walker said the suspect did not resist and said nothing.

Walker described him as wearing khaki pants and being clean-shaven.

“It wasn’t something you would expect from someone dressed like that, he just looked like an average person,” Walker said. “It could have very easily been my child, and if he wasn’t caught it could have been my child next.”

People who work in the area told the Examiner the kidnapping was recorded on video, but declined to release the footage.

In court Tuesday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Vedica Puri signed a stay-away order for Holyoake to remain at least 150 feet away from the mother and child.

Puri ruled that Holyoake would be held on $500,000 bail until a judge decides whether to hold him without bail later in the week.

Holyoake has been charged with felony kidnapping and child endangerment. He is facing up to eight years in prison.

Alex Bastian, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, could not comment on the details of the case but said, “we feel as though at this juncture the charges are appropriate.”

“We’re here in a criminal court case at the Hall of Justice, there is a child who is involved in this case, obviously for all of us that is very concerning,” Bastian told reporters outside the courtroom.


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Roscoe Holyoake (Courtesy SFPD)

Suspect Roscoe Holyoake, who is accused of attempting to kidnap a two-year-old child in the Castro, is arraigned in court at the Hall of Justice on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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