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Brutal beating of college student may have been hate crime

RENO, Nev. – The family of a 22-year-old who was brutally beaten at an Amtrak train station in California claims he was attacked because he’s gay, according to KTXL.

Tuesday,  Aaron Salazar remained in a coma at Renown Hospital in Reno a week after he was brutally beaten. He has a damaged brain stem and a broken pelvis.

"It broke my heart. He did not look like Aaron at all," his cousin, Sonia Trujillo, told KTXL. "His face was beaten. He was swollen."

Salazar was traveling from his home in Colorado back to Oregon and made a stop in Truckee.

While he was there, he texted his great-grandmother to say he had made a friend and was heading to Sacramento, where he had a 10-hour layover. He never made it.

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 of the burn marks. Why burn somebody? If you're gonna hurt somebody, hurt them. But why are you gonna burn somebody?"

The Amtrak and Truckee police departments did not reply to a request for comment. Salazar's family says Amtrak police won't comment to them, saying it is an ongoing investigation.

"I firsthand saw his injuries. There's no way that he was pushed off a train or jumped off a train because these are all upper-body injuries," Trujillo told KTXL.

Visitors to Truckee were shocked to hear about Salazar's injuries.

"If somebody knows something, they should step forward and help to find out exactly what happened, who caused it to happen and how we can prevent it from happening again," Truckee visitor Jim Clark said.

Meanwhile, Salazar's mother keeps vigil at his bedside at the hospital. His family is keeping the faith.

"We're praying," Trujillo said. "That's all we can do for him right now is pray that he pulls through this."