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Comatose gay train passenger's mysterious injuries raise questions about hate crime

Aaron Salazar, 22 was traveling on a train to Portland, but his body was found along the train tracks in Truckee, California. He is in a coma and an investigation is underway.
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A young gay man remains in a coma in a Reno hospital critical care unit as his family tries to solve the mystery of how he got the injuries that sent him there.

College student Aaron Salazar, 22, was found severely injured near the railroad tracks in Truckee California about 31 miles outside of Reno, Nevada. He had been traveling from Colorado to Oregon on Amtrak. The train was scheduled to make a stop just 15 minutes from where his body was found. 

The condition of his body has raised many questions from being physically attacked to being thrown from the moving train to being a victim of a hate crime. The authorities are unwilling to give his family any answers.

Salazar suffered a broken pelvis, brain damage and mysterious burns to the inside of his thighs. He was discovered on the tracks last Tuesday only 15 minutes from the Truckee Amtrak depot. 

“We don’t know anything,” Salazar’s cousin, Sonia Trujillo told the Reno Gazette Journal, “We’re not asking for the world, we’re just asking for answers for this family.”

The family is frustrated because Amtrak is not releasing any information from their investigation. The family's questions about the time he was found, where he was in relation to the tracks, and how long he had been there remain unanswered.

Salazar was traveling back to Portland State University, he still had many hours left on the 31-hour rail journey.

During the trip, Salzar texted his great-grandmother from the train saying he had made a new friend with a passenger and they were going to explore the state capital during the train’s ten-hour layover, a destination the young man wouldn't see. 

 Amtrak Police won’t divulge anything about their investigation other than in a brief statement in which they say, “there’s nothing to suggest criminal intent.”

But the family is growing increasingly worried and suggest the railway company may be trying to hide something.

“What I’m concerned about is, we’re dealing with the Amtrak police department on an Amtrak train,” Trujillo said. “I don’t know if they’re trying to protect the train or if they’re trying to protect the people.”

“I’m wondering why there isn’t another police department involved," she added, "anybody besides Amtrak, because I feel like they’re protecting Amtrak because it’s their police.”

Sgt. Danny Renfrow told the Reno Gazette Journal that Amtrak investigators have priority over an investigation only if the crime happened aboard one of their trains. It then becomes the federal jurisdiction of Amtrak and local authorities must step back. 

The family thinks since Salzar’s body was found in Truckee, that local police department should have jurisdiction too.

Trujillo described further injuries to Salzar’s body saying he also suffered abdominal bruises, a broken nose and mysterious burns inside his thighs.

She fears her cousin may have endured something sinister, perhaps at the hands of an assailant. 

“His injuries are consistent with a beating, in my opinion,” she said. And the doctors examining Salzar agree but they say won’t put anything in writing because of the investigation.

Even more concerning is whether or not Salzar was a victim of a gay hate crime. Trujillo said he wasn’t robbed and the mysterious burns on his thighs raise many questions..

The final piece of the puzzle may lie in the person Salzar met on the train. The one he was going to spend time with in Sacramento. Presumably, that “friend” would have noticed Salzar missing but has yet to come forward.

“It’s very puzzling,” Trujillo said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”  

A Go Fund Me page has been set up yo help the family with medical costs. Click HERE to donate.