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.”

Jorge Estrada

Just wait until they need to walk from Santa Margarita to San Luis Obispo. Although this section of Highway is classified an Express Way, allowing pedestrians, it will be good luck on this continuing to be an anything goes, essentially Freeway. A parallel road connecting the two communities is a must or it will be fast cars and truck only soon.


Jorge, I couldn’t agree with you more. However, until SLOCOG and the board of supervisors make it a priority it will never happen. It’s local so it’s not a Caltrans priority until the accidents start piling up. By law, and funding policy in California, the priority must be set by SLOCOG.


The headline needs fixed:

Famed 3 Mule Nomad assaulted by Jackasses”

1. Equestrians are allowed on these roads.

2. Bicycles are allowed on these roads

3. Drivers need to be aware of both

4. CHP are parasites and a scourge on productive taxpayers

5. Call the CHP and let them know how you feel about this travesty.

All cops should be social pariah’s, but the worst of the worst are CHP. They are nothing more than highway robbers.


They must have arrested you for DUI at some point.


God Bless the people of North County. Their help and kindness regarding Mr. Sears, Little Ethel, and Little Girl shows there is still goodness in this world…

Uncle Jack

Mules are farm animals (whether actively used for farming or not). SLO County has historical statutes that secure the “right to farm”. This right supersedes laws later established in the books and is what allows, for example, unlicensed farm tractors to be on the road at very slow speed even if holding up traffic.

A lawyer for this guy needs to look up SLO County’s “right to farm” statutes and slam the CHP with an unlawful arrest lawsuit. The right to farm as it applies to roadways means motorists are secondary to farming equipment, livestock, etc regardless of safety declarations. Just because the presence of his mules is less safe doesn’t actually forbid it (per statute). Livestock negligently on the roadway is an entirely separate matter that doesn’t apply here.

CHP is Backwards in treating farm ‘equipment’ here as secondary to general motorists. Hopefully their supervisors retrain the involved officers accordingly and reprimand the officers for their ignorance of the law


People move out by the lakes ….then realize the driving time involved …So when they leave late for their commute or have too much on their plate for the day …They become crazy madd high speed drivers ….and everybody else on the road is a menace to them and in their way ….Folks need to slow down , share the road with others , for way too long folks have used the back roads as their own personal racetrack …let alone Hwy 101 41 58 and 46 etc etc

Last Individual

How can one be arrested for “resisting arrest” absent a crime to warrant the arrest in the first place? If there was a crime to warrant the arrest, why wasn’t he charged with it? Sounds to me more like his only “crime” was contempt of cop, and that is only a “crime” in the eyes of cops. Incidents like this only increase contempt for cops by others.

A long ago friend is now a CHP officer in the north county. I certainly hope he was not involved in this travesty. I had thought far more of him than something like this. If he was involved, it must be a case of corruption due to power.


Well I wasn’t there to say what happened but I have seen many a bike rider on a lot of different roads ride side by side and take up a good portion of the driving lane. The roads in our area are narrow and everyone that drives them know it but they still drive like maniacs. The CHP I believe could of helped this man out better for his safety and others without spending time arresting him.


The CHP officers are in a no win situation. I’d hate to be the driver that drives around a blind curve and smacks into the man and his mules killing them and possibly myself. So I totally accept the officers wanting him to move to a safer road. There’s been many deaths over the decades on road G14 by drunks and fools. It’s too bad to see the fella get arrested and his mules transported. I’m sure this situation could have been handled better, by both parties.


But unless they prohibit bicycles, horses, and such, even walking if indeed G14 is unsafe for anything of than a automobile/vehicle then is seems like selective enforcement. Unless he was violating some other law, such as picking up after his mules, but if they don’t make horse riders to do the same, again selective enforcement. If he was indeed not keeping to the shoulder that could be an issue, but again if they also don’t arrest bicyclist riding three abreast or such, again selective enforcement. It seems given the information we have so far the CHP officers just had a burr under his/their saddle and certainly some attitude. The best thing at this point to do would be DA Dow to not press charges, if fact wipe things clean, talk with officers about being a bit more professional and suggest Mr. Sears stay to safer road, again if G14 is so unsafe. Then again many roads could be considered unsafe, parts of Price Canyon, 227, Highway 1 and many more and we don’t prohibit non-motorized vehicles from them. Then again expecting DA Dow to do the right, even legal, thing is never assured.


This is an issue with both parties. DA Dan Dow has to file the charges. He does what law enforcement tells him. He ran on anti-corruption, but has turned a blind eye to the corruption of Adam Hill and his buddies.

Officers rape woman, drive drunk and lie in court, and Dan Dow refuses to charge them. But he will aggressively go after those who point out government corruption. I feel sorry for the Mule guy.