3 Mule man leaves SLO County, prosecutors decline request for charges

February 5, 2020


The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office has declined a request from the CHP to file criminal charges against a 72-year-old nomad who officers arrested in Paso Robles last month. John Sears has wandered throughout California with his mules since 2003.

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

CHP officials said that at least seven people called 911 to complain that Sears and his two mules were creating a traffic hazard. Officer argue that while the law allows Sears to ride or drive his mules, he cannot lead them.

Following the arrest, San Luis Obispo based attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu offered to represent Sears pro bono. Funke-Bilu contacted District Attorney Dan Dow, who responded back that he would not be filing charges against Sears.

“I am pleased to announce that District Attorney Dan Dow has advised me today, February 1, 2020, that the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office will be declining to file a criminal complaint against my client, Mule, “in the interest of justice,” Funke-Bilu wrote. “Mr. Dow is to be applauded for doing the right thing and doing the right thing swiftly. Mule was traveling across America as he has done for many years, bothering no one, minding his own business.

“America’s roads are designed for its citizens, its cars, its horses, its mules, its pedestrians, its travelers. Let’s share our roads and be mindful that some of us move a little slower on them. Mule teaches us that life is not a sprint, but a marathon. It was an honor to represent an American icon.”


We drove by him yesterday on Hwy.58 near Buttonwillow,which puts him in Kern County.

And guess where he was…..in the middle of Hwy.58 eastbound. The second I saw him and the 2 mules I recognized him. I view him no different than bicycle’s on the road. Slow down….be courteous…..share the road. It is a public right of way.


He has every right to wander our Roads! I see him as an Icon too. To me He represents not only historic ideals, but a remembrance to slow down and smell the roses.

How Intolerant of those complainers!


Caring about public safety (drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and animals) is not intolerant, it’s the right perspective to have. Most roads aren’t wide enough, and if the view is blocked (coming around a corner or other), there are risks (at any speed) for all involved. I am more than happy for him to do as he pleases, but it needs to be done so safely. (Thus why pedestrians are not allowed on highways…it isn’t safe.)


Your argument makes no sense and seems largely uninformed based on the facts that have been given here at CCN. You really need to read the ENTIRE statement from the CHP, not just the parts you agree with. If Mr. Sears were riding one of the mules, or upon anther animal and “driving” the mules in one direction; his acts would have been perfectly legal. No, he would not have been traveling anywhere near the speed of traffic, and quite possibly he would have had a 3rd animal on the road to be in compliance with the law. If he were upon a horse and “driving” the mules, he would have taken up MORE space on the road.

So it seems that Mr. Sears was originally arrested on “resisting arrest and failure to comply with a lawful order.” Then the CHP spent a week researching what law(s) he might have broken. I realize you folks who moved here from L.A. think that the rules on our country two-lane backroads are the same as on the 10-lane freeways you escaped. Not always true. You moved here for our “rural charm.” Bringing your city mentality and driving skills with you, only make this place turn more and more into the city and city life you were supposedly escaping.


Very well put, C at play…… The complainers also may not know that they are responsible for not “overdriving their lights or sight distance” and must slow on blind curves, anticipating stopping for any road obstruction.

Those of us who can show our families have paid uninterrupted property taxes in this county for slightly over a CENTURY wish their were more of you, C at play……or who reason as you do…………..


I would consider changing the handle. Actually, scratch that. If I can call myself “slow,” then I guess it’s o.k. to call yourself “Lame.”

Nonetheless, I come from Portuguese farmers and dairymen who have owned land in Slo and Santa Barbara Counties since 1897. I was the first to go to college, and am retired law enforcement working in manufacturing (industrial engineering). I tend to support Republicans on a national scale but used to prefer voting for Democrats on a local level.

That is until this absolutely pitiful faction of Socialist, Progressive, Radical Liberal pipe dreamers took over the party. Is it me? Or do you miss the “Great Generation” as much as I do? They’re all old and mostly dead or way into retirement. It’s so hard to believe the Baby Boomers are their spawn. WTF is up with the Baby Boomers? It’s like they all started suffering late mid-life crisis’, have been stricken by severe mental illness, or are developing dementia early in life.

Anyway, thanks for the kudos “lame.” I don’t think common sense will ever have a chance of influencing people’s choices in the near future. Today people want to do everything based on “feelings and emotions.” It’s become so important to act like you’re in perpetual PMS, and strongly desire to always be portrayed as a victim. Curious times.


Thank you for your wonderfully incorrect labeling of people who post here. Your assumption that I am (or others are) from L.A. is random and rather ignorant, not to mention you come off sounding entitled – that no one can enter your forbidden county. (For the record, I am from here and more than familiar with our “rural charm” and the many two-lane roads.)

He wasn’t driving or riding his mules…so he was not in compliance with the law. Is it arrest worthy, no, not in my humble opinion. My point was about SAFETY and I am sorry that you missed that or choose to not understand it. IF he or his mules had been hit, there would be outcry, from both sides. It’s an avoidable risk. May you and your loved ones always been safe on the road.


You coomented (and I copied and pasted your quote): “Most roads aren’t wide enough, and if the view is blocked (coming around a corner or other), there are risks (at any speed) for all involved. I am more than happy for him to do as he pleases, but it needs to be done so safely. (Thus why pedestrians are not allowed on highways…it isn’t safe.)”

1st of all, Nacimiento Lake Drive IS NOT A HIGHWAY. It is a county road. If Mr. Sears were compliant with the law, it would have not changed the width of the road nor the speed of traffic. He could have been riding the 3rd animal while “driving” his mules in one direction on the road. He would have traveled not but one or two mph faster, and now there would have been three animals and Mr. Sears on the road. On top of that, “driving” his mules would not require them being on a tether. So they may have been all over one lane. Have you ever seen the “cattle drive” that used to be held a day or two before the Mid-State Fair?? Hardly an orderly or “traffic friendly” affair.

How about all of those tractors and other farm machinery that enter the roads at 10 mph or less?? Their legal, how do they somehow pose a lesser threat to speeding traffic??

I personally have written to Mr. Sears and suggested should his non-conformist self be able to stomach passing through our Socialist/cookie-cutter conformist little piece of hell again someday, that he should bring 20 mules, and “drive” them behind one of those old 20-mule team borax wagons. I am perfectly willing to find the mules and equipment and help bankroll the operation. He could spend maybe a month “legally” roaming up and down all the two-lane roads of our county.

If you decided to live in San Luis Obispo County on the cheap and moved to Heritage Ranch, then you need to realize that there is no fast commute to ANYWHERE. If you’re always in a hurry, sell your budget-minded spread and pry your wallet open and rent something inside of civilization.

Hmmmm, what a great idea. Think I’ll get some buddies together and we can hold a weekly “tractor parade” and horse ride up and down both Nacimiento Lake Drive AND Chimney Rock Road (during evening and morning rush hour of course). Time to get the Swells used to life in the country. OF COURSE, it will be all perfectly legal.

Anyway, so as not to trigger any more of your “feelings,” and attempt to knock you upside the head with facts: there are far more legal ways that Mr. Sears could have driven his mule team across the boonies. They would have all been just as slow and dangerous (if not more) than the methods he took.


I think your feelings are much more triggered than mine and I hope you are ok. I also question why you live locally (if you do) – as you seem very bitter about this area, which is unfortunate.

When you do decide to bankroll his next trip, or a tractor parade through “our Socialist/cookie-cutter conformist little piece of hell” as you called it, please do let the public know. I’ll be on the lookout so I can alert my family and friends who live “on the cheap” at Heritage Ranch. They’ve endured enough fatalities on that road as it is and I am certain they’d like the opportunity to share some insights with you.

Best of luck with your efforts and safe travels.


Another example of cops doing whatever they want. The roads belong to everybody. Kudos to Funke for stepping up for whats right.


The guy is an arse and should have been charged.


I wish him all the best, but this is a traffic hazard and could cause an accident for him, his mules and drivers.


Same could be said about bicyclists on Old Creek Road.


No more a traffic hazard than bicyclists riding two, three or more a breast, or a motorcyclist lane splitting at highway speeds and yet those are allowed everyday. Plus there is only one man and his mules are there are many bicyclist and motorcyclist everyday.


Same could be said for homeless walking on the freeway, debris that falls out of trucks onto the road, cars that don’t pull over, people that don’t turn their lights on… I agree, these are all potential hazards. All of that aside and staying on the actual topic, I don’t agree that he should be allowed to wander around roads with large animals. When someone comes around a curve and, goodness forbid, hits him or his animals, that driver and their car will be liable. It’s not a cow getting loose or some other random act…


Safe journey Mule Man, I will always treasure the day I met you in Santa Margarita!


This was the “right” thing to do.