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.”


Really? Some interesting hobo traveling the highways with mules, continuing to pass through, and CHP feels a duty to incarcerate him, and his animals. What a ridiculous waste of time, energy, and taxpayer dollars.

Why would this be a priority? GTFO.

Jon Tatro

As a retired police officer I can tell you CHP was in the wrong and they know it. Unfortunately CHP don’t video their stops or didn’t back in the day prior to my retirement so it will be interesting to see how this documented. Bicyclist ride that area all the time creating hazardous driving and CHP is ok with it.


This guy has been walking his mules throughout Cali since 2003! You would have thought LE would have had him figured out by now. A sad statement about the preparedness of the CHP.


This guy could literally wander the earth without issue until he gets into commiefornia and the “public servants” have their day with him. Im sure he travels with $5K in his back pocket for such incidents. Take everything the poor guy has, take away his animals and lock him up, big F’ing hero’s. You outta be proud of doing a find job. In the meanwhile how many died this weekend on 41/46 while you weren’t there? How many drunks rolled outta one of the hundreds of wineries or bars without you there? BTW, Somebody please warn Mr.Sears NOT to travel into the city of SLO. They’ed probably send out their dog killer and we all know what will happen then.


Many lake residents reported the mules were NOT walking single file, taking up most of one lane on a section of the road known as “Hell Hill”. It is a windy, steep hill with blind curves, and notorious for accidents. Several drivers reported nearly hitting the mules when they came around a curve to find them IN the road. This man created a very dangerous situation for him, his animals, and other drivers.


Anytime a law enforcement officer wants to arrest someone who is not kissing their but, they arrest them for resisting arrest. But how do you resist arrest without a crime to start with? Is it a crime not to bow down to every officer who crosses your path even if they are out of line?


Does not look like they were holding up traffic! I would tend to agree that equestrians are allowed on the streets and roads, just yielding to traffic. I hope this guy gets his day in court, and the officers (if found wrong) should be reprimanded!


The CHP must have had a slow day! This is ridiculous! Maybe some classes in the law would be in order! Who were these officers?


It has been said thousands of times elsewhere that if you mess with the cops (as cops define it) you risk arrest and they will “testi-lie” against you (as cops are said to call it) in court. I am sadly becoming more convinced of LE abuse with passage of time.

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