A Hawaii college student is beaten, and his family demands answers

Posted at 5:13 AM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 05:13:41-04

Aaron Salazar was taking an Amtrak train back to Portland, Oregon, after a trip to visit his father in Denver.

The 22-year-old Aina Haina man didn't make it to his destination.

Instead, he's unconscious in a hospital bed in Reno, and his family doesn't know exactly how or why.

Salazar graduated from Kaiser High School in 2015 and is now a junior at Portland State University. He texted with several family members about his train ride on May 15.

When he was asked if he had made it back to Portland, he responded, "Not yet, I wish, though. This damn train is taking forever lol and I have to stop in Sacramento."

"He had met a friend on the train, there was a layover in Sacramento, and they were going to grab lunch and explore," said his cousin, Sonia Trujillo, by phone in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "Nobody heard from him after that."

Some hours later, Salazar's family got a phone call. He had been found near the train tracks, with severe injuries. They also had no idea who Salazar's new friend was, or that friend's whereabouts.

Salazar's family believes he was beaten.

"His ribs are bruised, his stomach is badly bruised," said Trujillo. "He has a broken nose. He has a broken pelvis. He was a C-5 injury, and he has a brain stem injury, also."

Trujillo also said there are mysterious burns on his thighs.

"They are severe burns," she said. "When I saw them they were blistering. They were giant blisters from his groin area down his legs."

An Amtrak spokesman issued a statement, saying, "The Amtrak Police Department, in coordination with local authorities, is conducting an ongoing investigation into this incident and we are in contact with the family to provide them updates. At this time there is nothing to suggest criminal intent."

The family doesn't think that's the case at all.

"We need answers," said Trujillo. "This doesn't make any sense. Aaron is a good kid, responsible, loving, compassionate kid that this whole thing should have never happened to."

The family has started a GoFundMe page to help with medical and other costs as the investigation continues.

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