Family disputes Amtrak's claim that train injury appears suicidal

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TRUCKEE, Calif. (KOLO) - Amtrak Police Chief Neil Trugman says a student from Portland State found injured along train tracks near Truckee appears to have attempted suicide.

Truckee PD Chief Rob Leftwich (at podium); Amtrak PD Chief Neil Trugman (at right)

Trugman says other people on the train May 15, 2018 indicate Aaron Salazar had talked to them about being distraught and having personal issues. An open window was found on a lower level of the train, and the injuries sustained by Salazar are road rash-type injuries, similar to burns and consistent with what would happen to a person who jumped from a moving train.

Salazar was found three or four feet from the tracks about four miles east of Truckee, according to Trugman, and the train was already in Sacramento when a railroad work crew found him.

Amtrak said May 25 that no criminal intent had been found during the investigation into what had been interpreted as a possible hate crime.

At a news conference May 29, Trugman said no information was being released about Salazar's condition. Truckee Police are also involved in the investigation, with the FBI consulting.

The ThisisReno website posted a statement said to have been sent by Salazar's family, in response to the Amtrak investigation:

“As Aaron’s father and mother, we are releasing our official first public statement on what has happened with our son. We have many problems with Amtrak’s press conference today. First and foremost, Amtrak is a for-profit company that is currently investigating its own case to prevent any liability.

“From the very start, they ruled this case an attempted suicide. Their investigators gave us misleading information, including telling us that they had a witness who saw Aaron jump out a window on the train.

“When we fact-checked their claim and confronted the detective, he simply backpedaled his statement. Amtrak’s investigators only investigated the case as an attempt at suicide.

"Second, regarding the Amtrak chief of police’s statement: His claims about Aaron’s injuries falling from a train are not consistent with what anyone who has seen Aaron can attest to. For one, those burns that were supposedly from jumping out of a train are not consistent with the facts because Aaron’s jeans were not damaged and his injuries themselves do not match jumping out of a train.

“We are also surprised by this false theory because they have never had medical experts examine his body to determine the cause of his injuries. Their form of investigation has been little more than a smear campaign to sweep Aaron’s story under the rug like Robin Putnam’s case a few years ago.”

Amtrak statement 5/25:

"The Amtrak Police Department is conducting an ongoing investigation into this incident. The police department has conducted numerous interviews with customers, crew members, family and friends, as well as reviewed other available data and sources. After reviewing all the available material, the FBI was contacted and made aware of this investigation. At this time, there is nothing to suggest criminal intent. We have been in contact with Aaron’s parents and provided them updates on the investigation. We continue to investigate and ask anyone with information to contact the Amtrak Police Department at 800-331-0008."

Truckee Police statement 5/24:

"Recent media reports and social media posts have suggested that a young man named Aaron Salazar was found along the railroad tracks in Truckee, CA and that he was possibly the victim of an assault and hate crime that occurred in Truckee. It is the policy and best practice of most public safety organizations to not comment on another agency’s investigation, particularly if that investigation is active. However, since much of the information that is circulating on social media and in some news stories is inaccurate, speculative, or simply false, the Truckee Police Department would like to clarify a few things.

"First and foremost, our most sincere and heartfelt thoughts are with Aaron, the Salazar family, and his friends. We are worried for Aaron, and want him to quickly recover.

"We are not actively involved in the investigation and do not know what happened to Aaron or what the investigation might reveal. Amtrak is the most appropriate authority for this investigation being that all information indicates that the incident was confined to occurring on an Amtrak train. Amtrak Police clearly have jurisdiction over incidents connected to their trains and it is important to allow the investigative process to divulge what likely happened.

"On May 15, 2018, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the Truckee Police Department responded to a call regarding a person lying near the railroad tracks at the far east end of Truckee. When officers arrived, they located a person with significant injuries laying only feet from the railroad tracks. That person was quickly identified as Aaron. Officers assisted with medical aid, and Aaron was transported to Renown Medical Center in Reno, NV.

"It was almost immediately discovered that Aaron was a ticketed passenger on the west bound Amtrak train that had passed through Truckee earlier that morning. Because the incident originated and appeared to be entirely contained on the Amtrak train, the Truckee Police Department turned over the investigation after our preliminary response. Aaron never disembarked in Truckee, as he never made it to the Truckee station, and there is no information to suggest Aaron had any connection to Truckee or interactions with anyone from Truckee.

"The Truckee Police Department will never allow a conspiracy or cover-up to occur regarding any incident or investigation. Any suggestions to the contrary reflect a lack of factual information or knowledge of our organization and community. The Truckee Police Department will also never allow a crime against the LGBTQIA community to go unaddressed or uninvestigated. A case where a hate crime was committed would be addressed to the fullest extent of our capabilities. The Truckee community is not in danger and never was. We did not release information out of professional curtesy to Amtrak and to protect the investigative process as well as the confidentiality of the Salazar family.

"We understand how frustrating it can be to not have all the information when there is genuine concern and a desire to help. The Truckee Police Department has no control over the release of substantive information in this incident, since another agency is handling the investigation. We do ask, out of respect for Aaron, his family and for the investigative process that speculation, guessing, or rumors not be the basis for drawing conclusions.

"Any information that might help the investigation or any requests for information should be directed to Amtrak Police at (800) 331-0008.

"Keep Aaron and his family in your thoughts."


Amtrak tracks east of Truckee
Truckee PD/Amtrak PD news conference to address investigation