EL PASO, Texas (KXAN) — Drunk and stewing in anger, Barry Chvarak, 21, stood up from the bar of the Starburst Lounge, turned to his twin brother and said he was “going to shoot up the place.”
It was 2 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1980, last call. The bartender had just flipped on the house lights of the country and western dive bar tucked in the Northeast outskirts of El Paso. Chvarak walked to the parking lot toward his truck, but he wasn’t leaving.
He retrieved a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle, loaded it outside and walked back into the lounge. Chvarak would later struggle to explain his motive in that moment. The threat seemed so outlandish, his own twin didn’t consider it serious.
The next minute would seal Chvarak’s fate: five innocent people murdered and three others wounded. It would be, until 2019, the worst mass shooting in the city’s history.
After that tragic day in the Starburst, mass shootings in Texas would steadily increase and reach deadly new heights in 2018 and 2019. In September, Gov. Greg Abbott outlined executive and legislative plans that state leaders hope could decrease the violence. Now, a KXAN investigation digs into two tragic mass attacks in 1980 and the following 40 years of mass violence.