Speculation remains around Portland student found unconscious on train tracks | SierraSun.com

Speculation remains around Portland student found unconscious on train tracks

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

After visiting his father in Denver, 22-year-old Aaron Salazar was taking Amtrak back to Portland State University, where he studies economics as a junior.

On May 15, at 9:01 a.m., as his train approached Truckee for a stop, Salazar texted his grandmother saying he met a friend on the train and they were going to explore Sacramento during a layover.

He never made it to Sacramento, however. Instead he was found unconscious, and in critical condition, near the railroad tracks at the far-east end of Truckee, about two hours after the train had left for the state capital.

He was checked into Renown Hospital in Reno and was unresponsive.

Salazar sustained injuries to his upper body, including a broken pelvis, damaged brain stem and strange burns on the inside of his thighs, said his cousin, Sonia Trujillo.

"I believe he was beaten," said Trujillo. "I saw his injuries firsthand. It did not look like he jumped out of a train."

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"There's no road rash, no scrapes on him. He has bruises all over the side of his ribs, his neck," said Trujillo. "But the concerning part is the burns on the inside of his legs. Something's not right with that."

Family members speculate Salazar's injuries could be the result of a hate crime, as he is gay, Trujillo said. He was found with his wallet and phone. Trujillo said investigators have failed to provide adequate answers.

Because Salazar was found on Amtrak property, the Amtrak Police Department is investigating the incident and said in a statement, "At this time, there is nothing to suggest criminal intent."

On Thursday, the Truckee Police Department released a statement of its own.

"The Truckee Police Department will never allow a conspiracy or cover-up to occur regarding any incident or investigation," the statement read. "The Truckee Police Department will also never allow a crime against the LGBTQIA community to go unaddressed or uninvestigated.

"We understand how frustrating it can be to not have all the information when there is genuine concern and a desire to help. However, the department has no control over the release of information regarding the case," the statement read.

In a May 22 Facebook post, Austin Sailas, Salazar's cousin, said Salazar was attempting to open his eyes.

"Aaron is still healing from the burns, and has been fighting a fever but even still his progress is remarkable," the post read. "Unfortunately as many know we have been fighting with the Amtrak department for answers and at this point we are expecting a very long, and expensive process and are ready to fight."

"He's showing signs of recovering," said Trujillo. "He's responding to his mom and dad, and squeezing their hands. We have hope."

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at hjones@sierrasun.com.