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College student from Hawaii in coma after beating in suspected hate crime

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Aaron Salazar

A 22-year-old gay college student with Hawaii ties is in a Reno hospital in a coma, and his family believes he may have been the victim of a hate crime.

Aaron Salazar, who was on an Amtrak train from Colorado to Oregon on May 15, was found beaten and unconscious, lying near train tracks in Truckee, Calif., where his train was scheduled to stop for a layover, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Monday.

His last communication with his family was a text to his great-grandmother in Hawaii when he texted her saying the train had a scheduled 10-hour layover, news reports said.

His cousin, Sonia Trujillo, said Salazar suffered injuries to his head and brain, bruises to his rib cage and abdomen, a broken pelvis and nose and severe unexplained burns on the inside of his thighs.

The family believes the burn marks to his groin area are an indication that this is a possible hate crime related to his being gay, Trujillo said.

Salazar grew up in Hawaii from the time he was 7 or 8 years old, lived in Hawaii Kai with his mother, sister and grandmother, and graduated from Kaiser High School in 2015. He is a student at Portland State University, where he majors in engineering.

The Amtrak Police Department is investigating the case.

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