The founder of a local militia group, John "Tig" Tiegen, jumped into the crowded race for Colorado Springs mayor this week. 

Tiegen is one of 12 vying to replace Mayor John Suthers, who is term-limited and cannot run again. He is facing off against some well-known names, such as City Councilman and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams and former City Councilwoman Sallie Clark, El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez and businessman Yemi Mobolade. 

Tiegen, a former CIA security contractor, promoted his intent to run on Twitter Jan. 20, saying he pledged to promote "justice, general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for all residents" of Colorado Springs. 

The Gazette's attempts to reach Tiegen via email and phone were unsuccessful.

Tiegen fought to repel the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and collaborated with other security team members and author Mitchell Zuckoff for the book "13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi."

In recent years, he founded the United American Defense Force, a group that pledged to stand up to mobs causing mayhem. It also promises to stand up to human trafficking. 

The organization is the militia arm of nonprofit Faith, Education, Commerce United founded by Joe Oltmann. The group is working for change nationally through local elections.

In a candidate forum in October 2020, Tiegen said United American Defense Force would train its members to do "urban warfare."

"There are other organizations that, they'll train you to do urban warfare. They'll train you how to do all kinds of stuff, but they never show up, either. That's why I'm standing here, because they never showed up," he said.

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Tiegen listed the United American Defense Force among other private business interests in his candidate filing, records show. The organization is described in the documents as a humanitarian organization.

In 2020, Tiegen organized a "Patriot Muster" that drew more than 100 people to Denver's Civic Center Park. Tiegen's supporters, many in paramilitary garb and some with firearms, were met by a counterprotest associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, The Gazette reported previously. 

The events turned deadly when a 9News security guard fatally shot a man during a confrontation while the protests were ending, the newspaper reported.

In June 2020, after the Colorado Springs Independent published a story showing photographs of armed men associated with Tiegen, Colorado Springs protest leaders said they feared potential violence involving Tiegen and his group.

One of the photos showed an unidentified man in combat fatigues and holding a military-style rifle while standing atop a parking garage overlooking a George Floyd protest at City Hall downtown.

In recent months, Tiegen has posted on social media that he does not believe in Arizona's election results and supported those calling for a new election.

"Who [sic] willing and brave enough to join myself and others to shut this corrupt system down?" he posted in November, while also calling for an alternative to the existing Republican Party. 

He has also appeared as a guest several times on Oltmann's Conservative Daily podcast, which among other topics promotes assertions of widespread election fraud. Election officials in Colorado and elsewhere have repeatedly refuted those claims.

Gazette reporter Breeanna Jent contributed to this report.

Contact the writer at or 719-429-9264.

Mary Shinn has worked at The Gazette since 2020 covering city hall, local politics and environmental issues. Previously, she worked for The Durango Herald from 2013 to 2020 covering city hall, education, environment and agriculture. In 2013, Shinn was a News 21 fellow and worked on an investigative series focused on veteran's issues. 

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