Aaron Salazar was on an Amtrak train Tuesday going from Colorado to Portland. Salazar’s last known communication was a text message, at about 11 a.m., to his grandmother in Hawaii.
Today, Salazar is in ICU at a local hospital. He’s in a deep coma, according to his cousin Austin Sailas. He was found incapacitated, with multiple injuries, near the train tracks Tuesday.
Salazar was badly injured “with injuries consistent from being beaten,” Sailas said. His brain stem is damaged, he has a black eye, a broken pelvis, and a mysterious burn on his groin area, possibly a chemical burn.
The injuries are similar to being kicked and beaten, Sailas said.
Salazar’s family is looking for answers. The matter is being investigated by Amtrak law enforcement.
“I have confirmed this is still under investigation,” said Amtrak spokesperson Jason Abrams.
“His left hand had marks as if he punched somebody in self-defense,” Sailas said.
Salazar’s sister, Alyssa, said he had what looked to be blood under his fingernails.
Salazar is gay, and family members said this may be a hate crime. They are encouraging people to visit their GoFundMe page for Aaron and to use the hashtag #JusticeForAaron.
Investigators are allegedly exploring whether Salazar may have jumped from the train, but family members discount that as a possibility, citing Salazar’s upbeat and happy nature.
“We just want answers,” Alyssa Salazar said, “and for people to pray for him.”
Aaron remains in critical condition at a Reno hospital. His family is hoping anyone with information about the person Aaron may have been with, or anyone else on the train with information, to contact them or Amtrak’s police department: 800-331-0008.
“You can also send a text to APD11 from a smartphone or to 27311 from a standard cell phone,” Abrams added.
This story is developing and will be updated as new details emerge.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.