Aaron Salazar
Aaron Salazar GOFUNDME

Absolutely horrifying: a gay PSU student was taking the train from his home in Colorado back to school in Portland. He texted his great-grandmother from Truckee, California, to tell her that he had a 10-hour layover and was going to hangout with a new friend he made on the train. Aaron Salazar was found an hour later beaten, bloody, and burned:

A station employee found Salazar's battered body lying next to the train tracks. The injuries to his body have his family wondering whether it was a hate crime. Salazar is gay. His family says he suffered devastating injuries to his groin area. "The burns on his leg were horrifying. It did not look like him at all," Trujillo said. "I believe it was something deeper because the burn marks. Why burn somebody?"

Salazar's face was beaten to a pulp (his mother didn't recognize him when she got to the hospital), his pelvis was broken, his brain stem has been damaged, and whoever attacked him set his thighs and crotch on fire. Salazar is now in a coma and doctors don't know yet if he's suffered permanent brain damage or even if he'll surive. Since the crime happened in a train station, Amtrak—which has its own police department (who knew?)—is leading the investigation.

In addition to being gay, Salazar is a person of color—a person of color taking a train through blood red Trump country.

Despite Salazar's gruesome injuries, Amtrak police say there is "nothing to suggest criminal intent," they aren't investigating this as a potential hate crime, and they've suggested that it might have been a suicide attempt.

Um... has anyone ever committed suicide by setting their crotch on fire and then jumping from a moving train? And if Salazar had opened a window or door and jumped from the train while it was still moving, alarms would've gone off on the train. And if he jumped from a moving train, his clothes would've been shredded and his entire body would've been covered in cuts and bruises.

Says Salazar's mother:

“Something happened there. You can’t say a kid, you know, jumped out of a train or fell out of a train and this kid does not have no injuries consistent with a train going 60 to 70 miles an hour. No damage to his clothes. There’s not a scratch on his arms or his legs, and you’re flying out of a train? It makes no sense to me. I honestly believe that he was beaten.”

So do the doctors who treated Salazar after he was airlifted to a hospital in Reno: they say his injuries are consistent with a beating, not a suicide attempt.

I've taken Amtrak across the country a half a dozen times. It's not uncommon to make new friends on the train—you talk to people in dining car and in the lounge to pass the time. And while you're talking to people, other passengers are sitting nearby will see you together and it's impossible for them to avoid overhearing your conversation. It takes 27 hours for the train to get from Denver, CO, to Truckee, CA. If Salazar made a new friend on the train, other passengers almost certainly saw the two men together and overheard them talking during the day Salazar spent on the train.

If the Amtrak Police Department isn't in the process of tracking down and interviewing every last person on the train that day, they aren't trying to find the person or persons who attempted to murder Aaron Salazar.

Because this is America and our health care system is designed to impoverish and kill, Salazar's family had to establish a GoFundMe account to help pay for his medical expenses.