Members of Oregon's congressional delegation are asking Amtrak for a full report on an investigation into a gay Portland State University student whose unconscious body was found near train tracks in Northern California.
Aaron Salazar, 22, was traveling on an Amtrak train from Colorado to Portland on May 15 when his body was found in Truckee, California. Salazar suffered from a damaged brain stem, a broken pelvis and nose, a bruised ribcage and a severely burned inner thigh, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.
"Aaron is a person of color who also identifies as gay, and his injuries suggest that this incident may have been a hate crime against him during an Amtrak layover in Truckee, California," the congressional delegation wrote to Amtrak president and CEO Richard Anderson. That delegation includes Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.
The Amtrak Police Department is investigating the incident and says it has conducted numerous interviews with customers, crew members, family and friends.
"At this time, there is nothing to suggest criminal intent," Amtrak said in a statement.
Text messages sent between Salazar and his grandmother at around 9 a.m. on May 15 show Salazar met someone on the train the day his body was found.
"I have a layover before getting on the next train," Salazar said. "I made a friend on the train though and we're going to go get some food and explore in the meantime though."
By 11:26 a.m., Truckee Police found Salazar's body. He was then transported to the nearest trauma center with life-threatening injuries.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was contacted and made aware of the investigation. The Nevada County District Attorney's Office is also monitoring the case.
"We’re watching it very closely and we’re taking it very seriously," said Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsch. "We’re going to turn over any stone and see what exactly took place. And if there's someone responsible for doing this, they will be held responsible."
According to an update on a GoFundMe page started by the family, Salazar is finally able to breathe on his own without a respirator but remains in the hospital.
The congressional delegation is asking Amtrak to use all available resources to promptly investigate the case. It says it expects a full report on the investigation to its federal delegation and Salazar's family.
"We have seen an increase in hate crimes across the country," they wrote. "The timing of this incident happens just one year after a white supremacist began harassing two women of color on Portland transit. Of the three people who stepped in to intervene, two were killed and one was seriously injured. There are too many stories like these and too many lives lost or injured due to hate crimes in our communities."