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The film starts 11 July 1879 in Lincoln County. A group of men who work for Major Harper, led by gunslinger Minniger, attempt to arrest rancher Alexander Kain and his English partner Jameson. They are stopped by William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, who shoots and injuries them.Jameson offers Billy a job as a ranch hand. A drunken group of Harper's men attach the ranch and kill Jameson. Billy goes on a killing rampage, encouraged by the manipulative Kain, who publicly decries Billy's efforts. Governor Lew Wallace offers Billy a pardon which he turns down. Pat Garrett is sent to catch Billy.