A Portland State University student has been in a coma since being found severely injured and unconscious near railroad tracks in Truckee, Calif. almost two weeks ago.
Inconsistent information and the bizarre circumstances surrounding 22-year-old Aaron Salazar's unexplained injuries have raised questions about how Amtrak, which has its own police department, investigates possible crimes.
As first reported by the PSU student newspaper, the Vanguard, Salazar had been traveling back to campus after visiting family in Denver. When the train passed through Truckee, a small town north of Tahoe, Salazar somehow exited the train. He was found by a railway worker with several broken bones, brain damage and burns to his upper thighs and groin.
Salazar's family believes he was targeted in a hate crime.
"We believe it could be a hate crime due to, for one, the focus on his crotch area for injuries, and also [because] he was a proud gay man," Austin Sailas, Salazar's cousin, told the Vanguard. "We believe it could have been a homophobic-enticed attack."
But Amtrak officials have said they found "nothing to suggest criminal intent." The agency and the local police have issued statements saying officials believe the train was in motion when Salazar went missing, but they have not determined whether he jumped, fell, or may have been pushed from the train. Amtrak says it has notified the FBI of its investigation.
The railway operator has come under fire for failing to be transparent about its investigations into deaths along its routes in the past. In 2012 another young man disappeared from the train and his body wasn't found until 2015. In 2014, an elderly woman went missing and was later found next to the tracks. In those cases, Amtrak was criticized for not sharing surveillance video and withholding information with families or the public.