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Johnny Ringo

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I want your blood, I want your souls, and I want 'em both right now.
~ Johnny threatening Wyatt and his crew.

Johnny Ringo is the main antagonist of the 1993 film, Tombstone.

He is portrayed by Michael Biehn, and based on the real Johnny Ringo.


In the film, he is at first the second in command of The Cowboys. He is characterized as a violent sociopath who aspires to humiliate and destroy Doc Holliday. He is also characterized as highly educated, at one point trading Latin taunts with Holliday.


Just as Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, begin to benefit from a stake in a gambling emporium and saloon, they have their first encounter with a band of outlaws called the Cowboys. Led by "Curly Bill" Brocius, the Cowboys are identifiable by the red sashes worn around their waist. Conflict is narrowly avoided upon Wyatt's insistence that he is retired and no longer interested in a career enforcing the law. This is also the first face-to-face meeting for Holliday and Johnny Ringo, who take an immediate dislike to one another.

Virgil, unable to tolerate lawlessness, becomes the new marshal and imposes a weapons ban within the city limits. This leads to the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Tom McLaury are killed, Virgil and Morgan are wounded, and the allegiance of county sheriff Johnny Behan to the Cowboys is made clear. As retribution for the Cowboy deaths, Wyatt's brothers are ambushed: Morgan is killed, while Virgil is maimed.

During Wyatt Earp's vengeance upon the Cowboys, Curly Bill is killed by Wyatt, making Johnny the new leader of The Cowboys. Ringo sends a messenger (dragging McMaster's corpse) to the ranch telling Wyatt that he wants a showdown to end the hostilities and Wyatt agrees. Doc knows he is a better match for Ringo, but is in no condition for a gunfight. Wyatt sets out for the showdown, not knowing that Doc has already beat him to the scene. Doc surprises Ringo, and says they are now finishing their previous challenge "to play for blood". Doc fires the first shot, hitting and killing Ringo when Ringo's nerves slow his draw.

Role in Real Life

Johnny Ringo was an outlaw member of The Cowboys of Cochise County, of the American Old West, who was affiliated with Ike Clanton and Frank Stilwell in Cochise County, Arizona Territory during 1881–1882. On January 17, 1882, Ringo and Doc Holliday traded threats and seemed to be headed into a gunfight. Both men were arrested by Tombstone's new chief of police, James Flynn (former chief Virgil Earp having been badly wounded in an ambush a few weeks before), and hauled before a judge for carrying weapons in town. Both were fined. Judge William H. Stilwell followed up on charges outstanding against Ringo for a robbery in Galeyville and Ringo was re-arrested and jailed on January 20 for the weekend.

Around Tombstone, Arizona, Ringo had a reputation as having a bad temper. He may have participated in robberies and killings with the Cowboys. Two months later, Ringo was suspected by the Earps of taking part in the murder of Morgan Earp on March 18, 1882. On July 14, 1882, Johnny Ringo was found dead in the crotch of a large tree in West Turkey Creek Valley, near Chiricahua Peak, with a bullet hole in his right temple and an exit wound at the back of his head. His true killer remains ambiguous to this day.


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