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Gay university student critically injured while passenger on Amtrak

Family wants answers to questionable circumstances

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Aaron Salazar was traveling on Amtrak when he was critically injured. (Photo courtesy Salazar family via Facebook)

UPDATE: Click here.

Aaron Salazar was on an Amtrak train last week traveling from Denver to Portland, but mysteriously ended up in a coma at a Nevada trauma hospital instead.

Salazar’s last known communication was a text message to his great-grandmother who lives in Hawaii.

According to the Truckee California Police Department’s Detective-Sergeant Danny Renfrow, sometime shortly before noon on May 15, following Salazar’s text message, the 22-year-old gay Portland State University junior was found in critical condition by railroad workers lying beside the Union Pacific Railroad’s right-of-way property within the town’s corporate limits.

The extent of his injuries necessitated a Medevac to the Renown Regional Medical & Trauma Centre 31 miles away in neighboring Reno, Nev., according to Truckee Fire-Rescue officials.

 

(Photo courtesy Salazar family via Facebook)

Salazar’s cousin Austin Sailas, the spokesperson for Salazar’s family, said that Salazar is in a deep coma in the ICU suffering from “injuries consistent from being kicked and beaten.” Sailas added that Salazar’s brain stem is damaged, he has a black eye, a broken pelvis and a series of blister-type burns from his groin area down his right leg. “His left hand had marks as if he punched somebody in self-defense,” Sailas added.

Another family member, Sonja Trujillo, who saw Salazar in the ICU, said that he had severe bruising to his upper torso, as well as other contusions. His sister, Alyssa, said he had what looked like blood under his fingernails.

Renfrow said that although his department initially responded to the call, the location where Salazar was discovered actually falls under the federal jurisdiction of Amtrak, with Amtrak’s in-house Police Department taking the lead on investigating any crimes occurring on an Amtrak train or a railroad right-of-way. Renfrow then referred further questions to Amtrak’s investigators.

“I have a layover before getting on the next train,” Salazar texted his great-grandmother. “I made a friend on the train and we’re going to go get some food and explore.”

Eight days after Salazar was found, the family was growing increasingly frustrated, according to both Sailas and Trujillo.

“The detective keeps trying to tell us maybe he jumped,” Trujillo said. “I, his family, we don’t believe that. No, his injuries are consistent with a beating, in my opinion.” She then added, “He was happy.”

Sailas agreed with Trujillo’s assessment, noting that Salazar had discussed graduation plans with him along with a family outing later on this summer.

The family said they are also frustrated because the attending physicians at Renown Regional Medical Centre have told them that his injuries correspond with a beating, but they won’t put it in writing because of the ongoing police investigation.

Both Trujillo and Sailas noted that Amtrak investigators said they have not accessed Salazar’s phone or computer yet, although investigators are in possession of his laptop, iPhone, wallet and the clothes he was wearing at the time of the incident. The family would like to have access to his phone and computer saying that those items could provide insight into what happened. For instance, the great grandmother later provided the text message Salazar sent her, and the family wonders if there may be other revealing texts and photos.

 

(Photo courtesy Salazar family via Facebook)

“We have been asking and calling and they have been withholding even the simplest (answers), like where was Aaron found and what time,” Sailas said. “Simple questions that any parent would like to know. As for his parents, they need answers for their peace of mind. They just want to know their son didn’t suffer in pain for hours and hours.”

Trujillo also thinks that the fact that his wallet was on him with about $281 means that it wasn’t a robbery. “He’s gay—maybe a hate crime? That and he just isn’t the type of person to just jump from a train,” she said.

Family members don’t believe he’d jump from a moving train because of his upbeat and happy nature.

“We just want answers,” his sister Alyssa Salazar said, “and for people to pray for him.”

Amtrak released this statement on May 21: “The Amtrak Police Department is conducting an ongoing investigation into this incident. At this time, there is nothing to suggest criminal intent. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Amtrak Police Department at 800-331-0008.“

After learning of the story, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve reached out to Salazar’s family. “I’m very concerned,” she said. “There are more questions than answers at this point. I want this family to know we are a community that cares.”

Schieve said she’s also reaching out to officials and law enforcement in Truckee seeking more answers.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help defray the hospital costs.

(Reporting by Bob Conrad, Editor & Publisher of ThisIsReno Media LLC, with additional reporting from Los Angeles Blade staff.)

 

 

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Vermont

Out Vermont state senator wins Democratic primary in U.S. House race

Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress

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Screenshot via Becca Balint for Congress

MONTPELIER – The Green Mountain State’s state Senate president pro tempore has won the Democratic nomination for the state’s at-large congressional seat, the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Becca Balin is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress if elected in November. Vermont is the only state that has never had a female member of its congressional delegation.

The VTDigger, a statewide news website, reported; “Balint, 53, is the first openly gay woman elected to the Vermont Senate and the first woman to serve as its president. The former middle school teacher and stay-at-home mother won her first political contest in a race for her southeastern Vermont Senate seat in 2014

She rose quickly through the ranks of the Democrat-controlled chamber, becoming majority leader in 2017, at the start of her second term. Four years later, in 2021, she was elected pro tem — the top position in the Senate.”

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District of Columbia

Gay couple assaulted in D.C. by teens shouting ‘monkeypox faggots’

The men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one receiving stitches for a deep cut

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Photo credit: Washington Metropolitan Police Dept/Facebook

WASHINGTON – Two young men appearing in their late teens shouted the words “monkeypox faggots” at a gay male couple walking along 7th Street, N.W. in the city’s Shaw neighborhood on Sunday, Aug. 7, before punching the two men in the face and head in an incident that D.C. police have called a suspected hate crime.

The gay men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one of the two receiving stitches for a deep cut on his upper lip, according to one of the victims who spoke to the Washington Blade.

The victim, an Alexandria resident who asked that he and his partner, a D.C. resident, not be identified by name, said the attackers were part of a group of four or five young men appearing to be between 17 and 19 years old and two young women accompanying them. He said the group crossed paths with the gay couple around 5:40 p.m. in front of a store on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W., as the couple was walking to a nearby bus stop on Rhode Island Avenue.

The victim who spoke to the Blade said a nearby witness called D.C. police, who arrived within a few minutes as the two attackers and the other young men with them fled the scene. He said although an ambulance arrived on the scene, one of the police officers drove the couple to nearby Howard University Hospital, where they spent about six hours in the emergency room.

The couple had spent part of that 90+ degree day at the city’s Banneker Pool and later stopped at the Kiki gay bar on U Street, N.W. before taking what the victim who spoke to the Blade said was a leisurely walk from Kiki via 7th Street on their way to the bus stop, where they planned to take the bus to his boyfriend’s Northeast D.C. house.

As the couple walked south on 7th Street about a block from their destination on Rhode Island Avenue they crossed paths with the group of teenagers in front of a store that a D.C. police report says was at 1731 7th St., N.W.

“They were about 17 to 19 years old,” the victim who spoke to the Blade said. “And one of them started saying stuff like, hey, look at these monkeypox faggots and some not so nice stuff like that,” he said.

Two persons of interest considered possible suspects in the Sunday, Aug. 7 assault of a gay couple on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W. Police ask anyone who recognizes one or both individuals to contact police at 202-727-9099.
(Image courtesy of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department)

“We turned around to walk away and one of them came up behind me and got my attention and then sucker punched me and then hit me again and then hit my boyfriend in the face,” the victim said. “And another person hit him in the face as well,” he said. “And then someone across the street called the cops. And then the cops came, and they scattered off.”

To the couple’s surprise, the two young women remained on the scene and apologized for the actions by the guys they were with.

“So, I said something like thanks for the apology, but this is the kind of people you hang out with,” the victim recounted. “And one of them said their dad was gay, and they kind of walked away before the cops got there,” he said. “It was nice of them to apologize I guess for the other people.”

The D.C. police report lists the incident as having two offenses, a simple assault against the two men and a misdemeanor destruction of property related to the destruction of a pair of sunglasses worn by one of the two men that were damaged in the assault against him.

The report also lists the incident as a suspected “Sexual orientation – Anti-Gay” hate crime.

As in all incidents of violent crime, D.C. police call on members of the public to contact the police with information about an incident like this to call police at 202-727-9099 or text a tip to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411.

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Federal Government

Biden administration ends ‘Remain In Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers

DHS had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then until the U.S. District Judge lifted his injunction

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas meeting with Honduran Security Minister Sabillon, July 27, 2022 (Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) colloquially referred to as the ‘Remain-in-Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers at the nation’s Southern border has ended.

In a statement issued yesterday, DHS noted;

“We welcome the U.S. District Court’s decision, which follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30th decision, to lift the injunction that required DHS to reimplement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in good faith.

DHS is committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner. Individuals are no longer being newly enrolled into MPP, and individuals currently in MPP in Mexico will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date.  Individuals disenrolled from MPP will continue their removal proceedings in the United States.”

DHS officials had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then additionally until U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee in Amarillo, Texas, had lifted his injunction. 

“MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said as DHS removed the MPP policy.

The DHS statement also noted that the Department will provide additional information in the coming days. “MPP enrollees should follow the directions on their court documents and tear sheets to appear for their scheduled court date as required.”

DHS continues to enforce our nation’s immigration and public health laws, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order as required by court order. Individuals encountered at the Southwest Border who cannot establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed or expelled, the statement added.

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