Famed 3 Mule nomad arrested in Paso Robles

January 26, 2020


After ordering John Sears to stop walking with his mules on Nacimiento Lake Drive near Paso Robles, on Thursday afternoon a CHP officer arrested the 72-year-old esteemed nomad for resisting arrest and placed his mules into San Luis Obispo County Animal Services custody.

Sears, who goes by Mule, has wandered California with his mules since 2003. They walk by day and stop at night to sleep primarily in public parks or in grassy areas near roadways. His mules, Little Girl and Ethel, graze on vegetation and drink the water they come across along the way.

And while thousands of people follow Sear’s 3 Mules blog, with many stopping to shoot a photo with the nomads, law enforcement officers are not always as accommodating.

On Jan. 23, after a CHP officer ordered Sears to stop walking on Nacimiento Lake Drive, the officer returned and arrested the nomad for resisting arrest, and booked him into SLO County Jail with his bail set at $5,000.

Sears contends state law permits him to walk with his mules on the road, and that he did not resist arrest.

A GoFundMe page raised $500, and Sears bailed out of jail and collected his mules from county animal services. A local with a horse trailer then transported Sears to Templeton to pick up his belongings from the CHP office.

Sears is scheduled to appear in court on March 23.

3 Mules blog post:

“January 22, 2020, after walking 15.3 miles from Pleyto and past Lake Nacimiento, we stopped here along G14 (Lake Nacimiento Road) to spend the night. We have walked this scenic back road route repeatedly in past years.

“On Thursday morning, I awoke, fixed breakfast and packed up the mules. We got back onto G14 heading towards Paso Robles and walked approximately three hours when a California Highway Patrol (CHP) cruiser pulled up along side us. He said he had been getting calls that we were walking on the road. He asked me to do him a favor and not walk on the road.

“My reply was that the Mules have the right to walk on the road. We are not breaking any laws and we will continue to do so for the simple reason that we have the right to. There was no alternative side road or trail along G14 to walk to Paso Robles. At that point he left.

“We continued walking 10 to 15 minutes when the CHP officer returned with another CHP officer in another cruiser. He stopped in front of us, got out of his cruiser and told us that we could not walk on the road. We reasserted our right to walk on the road.

“It was obvious if you looked at the road, there was nowhere else to walk; we were walking as far to the edge as possible. Little Girl who I was leading was walking right abreast of me and Little Ethel was abreast of Little Girl. Little Ethel was the one furthest in the road.

“There was plenty of room for a passing motorist, slowing his or her automobile (which is required by California law when approaching other legal users – cyclists, equestrians, pedestrians – of the public thoroughfare) to an appropriate speed to safely pass. Motorists on G14 were doing so, slowing down and passing safely with no problem.

“The officer continued to assert that we could not walk on the road. We continued to assert we had the right to walk on the road and that we could not sprout wings to go anywhere else as we were landlocked and there was no alternative way to walk out of where we were standing. We went back and forth like that for a good period of time.

“Officer trying to convince us that we had no right to walk on the road which was ludicrous. The California Driver’s Handbook clearly states that equestrians have the right to use the public thoroughfare.

“We bantered back and forth for a good period of time when the officer finally said if I come back again you will be arrested and your animals will be impounded. He then left with his fellow officer.

“Well now what were we to do? There was no side roads to take off on. There was nothing but G14. There was no cell phone service for us to call or post for trailer assistance. The officer offered no alternative means for which we could safely proceed to our destination of Paso Robles. We had no choice but to stand there on the side of the road for hell to freeze over or to continue to walk to Paso Robles on G14. So we had to do just that, because again, the mules and myself do not have wings.

“After walking 10 minutes further down the road, the officer was stationed with his partner on a side road to our left. I do not know the name of this side road or if it was an alternative road to get to Paso Robles.

“The officer got out of his cruiser, approached me, stepped in front of me and said I was under arrest. He then took the lead rope from my hand and handed the lead rope to the other officer who took Little Girl and Little Ethel to the other side of the road and told me I was under arrest. He asked me to put my hand behind my back, which I did. Then he hand cuffed me, took me to his cruiser, opened the door, and asked me to get inside, which I did.  I offered absolutely no resistance.

“We have now been charged with obstruction. We were not charged for walking on the highway because we had every right to be walking on the highway. We have been charged with obstruction resisting arrest. I did not resist arrest.

“Little Girl and Little Ethel were taken to San Luis Obispo Animal Services, while I was taken to San Luis Obispo County Jail where I was booked around 3pm and charged with resisting arrest under California Penal Code Section 148(a) PC, a broadly defined criminal offense that makes it illegal to intentionally resist, delay or obstruct a law enforcement officer.”


You people are cracking me up. Telling the CHP to bust real criminals, etc and quit messing with little stuff like this. They got multiple calls throughout the day on this idiot creating a traffic hazard. They are required to respond to every call. It is a waste of time to respond to this same situation repeatedly. The responding officer was assigned to Hwy 101. He would spend a minimum of 45 minutes each time he was called out to this fool. So, every time he responded, he was being taken away from “fighting real crime” as you people say. By putting an end to this and hauling him to jail, it freed him up to fight “real crime” rather than wasting time rsesponding to repeatedly calls about the mules.


Uh, appears that as others posted below, livestock enjoys blanket road privileges, including I found CVC 21759, requiring drivers to slow or stop and safeguard even the oddball livestockman STATEWIDE.

In this case, unless there is body cam footage, the CHP arguably appears to have overstepped and should NOT have hauled him to jail like a redneck Arkansas sheriff might have done. Hopefully this mule livestockman didn’t sass the CHP officers, just reasonably explained his travel.

Looks like the CHP goofed this one…………….

Here is the full text of CVC 21759 complete with “signaled” spelled wrongly:

CVC 21759: The driver of any vehicle approaching any horse drawn vehicle, any ridden animal, or any livestock shall exercise proper control of his vehicle and shall reduce speed or stop as may appear necessary or as may be signalled or otherwise requested by any person driving, riding or in charge of the animal or livestock in order to avoid frightening and to safeguard the animal or livestock and to insure the safety of any person driving or riding the animal or in charge of the livestock.

(Enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3.)


Hopefully this mule livestockman didn’t sass the CHP officers,

I wouldn’t place any bets on that. :)

He still has to stay towards the right edge of the roadway and I guarantee you that was NOT happening due to the number of calls coming in about him being a hazard.

We will see how this turns out in court.


Just because there are multiple calls doesn’t mean any laws were violated for the officer to enforce. He can’t just take him in because there are multiple calls. That’s a blatant violation of the man’s rights. If anyone should be arrested it’s the officers using their badges to harass this man.


Is this why we don’t have any Amish here?


WRONG! We have Mennonites in Adelaida and Paso Robles. Not as conservative as the Amish, but the same strain of religion. Highway Patrol would never be so braisen as to screw with religious rights. They just thought this dude with the mules was some random weirdo, and they treated him like anyone else that doesn’t have a dash camera or political party supporting them. Amazed they didn’t beat him, pepper spray and taze him.


Amish also have “Slow Vehicle” triangles on their buggies.


This guy doesn’t like cops and purposely tries to turn public opinion against them. He was creating a traffic hazard which is against the law. Witnesses called in that he was in the road with the mules on blind curves. The officers responded and gave him a lawful order to stay out of the roadway. He refused and was arrested for failing to obey a lawful order. Jon Tatro, if you truly are a retired officer, then you should be smart enough to figure this out. Instead, you call the CHP wrong when you have only listened to the side of a known cop antagonist. You probably weren’t very good at your job and “retired in lieu of firing”.


Please cite the law you believe he was breaking.

In the California Driver Handbook, cyclists and equestrians have the right to take the lane if there is not sufficient shoulder on a road to ride or walk. Motorists must slow down or stop until they can safely pass leaving 3 feet for safety or until the cyclists, equestrian, or pedestrian has sufficient shoulder room to move aside.


21954VC and 21956VC.