PARK CITY — Drew Hyde said he was just trying to celebrate his daughter's 16th birthday.
But by the end of the evening, he was in handcuffs and booked into the Summit County Jail, accused of attacking a group of teenage girls dressed as zombies trying to promote their dance company.
Hyde, however, said there's another side to the story. He told the Deseret News Monday that he was just trying to protect his family and had no idea what was going on.
"We were attempting to walk to a restaurant and were ambushed by people in bizarre costumes," he said.
The odd incident happened on Sept. 22. A group of girls between the ages of 13 and 16 were dressed in full theatrical zombie makeup. According to a report filed by Park City police, Hyde, of Henderson, Nevada, shoved, punched and pushed several girls down a flight of stairs.
"All five victims were with (Odyssey Theatre's ‘Thriller’) and were playing zombies outside of the Egyptian Theatre," the report states. "All female victims were checked by medical and no major injuries were noted except bruises."
A report says one girl was given ice for her cheek after being punched.
Hyde, 56, is charged in 3rd District Court with five counts of child abuse, a class A misdemeanor. Because of that, he said he was fired from his job and can no longer coach youth sports in his hometown.
While Hyde would prefer not to draw more attention to the incident, he wants people to know that he is not a child abuser and that the charges are overreaching.
"It makes me look like Attila the Hun, like I'm a horrible person," he said. "That makes me look like the guy on 'Dateline' trying to lure the girls who are underage. If I saw ('child abuse'), I'm not thinking you ran into zombies, I'm thinking you're the guy on 'Dateline.'"
According to Hyde, he and his family were visiting Park City for the first time. An Uber driver dropped them off in an area where they needed to walk through an alley to get to a restaurant on Main Street. He said the incident happened in the alley and not in front of the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main. He said he had no idea he was next to a theater and he wasn't even thinking about Halloween in September.
"They weren't promoting anything. In my mind, promoting means you have signs, you're out there passing out playbills. I could understand if they were doing, like, the 'Thriller' dance out in a corner or something. No. They were out on all fours — a couple of them — coming at me, trying to bite me. They were just sugared-up kids trying to scare people," he said.
Hyde denies shoving anyone down a flight of stairs. He said he "defensively" pushed a girl away and also kicked at one, but did not make contact. Hyde, a former college football player who is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, said he used restraint, adding that if he had actually attacked anyone the injuries would have been worse.
"I reacted that way because my daughter was hysterical. She's always feared clowns. I knew they weren't real zombies, obviously. But she was just hysterical," he said.
Furthermore, because of the zombie makeup, Hyde said he couldn't tell if he was being approached by males, females, adults or teens.
"I didn't see children. I saw zombies," he said.
"I believe it was beyond irresponsible for the Egyptian Theatre to send minors into an alley after dark and tell them to scare people," Hyde continued.
According to a statement from Odyssey Dance Theatre issued Monday, "Our policy was and has been this, that the zombies can circulate amongst the patrons to entertain them and if the presence is not welcomed, then the zombies withdraw."