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Update: DA drops charges against nomad ‘Mule’ John Sears, who was arrested by CHP 

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney has declined to file charges against John Sears for walking his mules along G14 in Paso Robles, according to a statement from local attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu. Sears was arrested Jan. 23 by the California Highway Patrol. He was initially booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail for “resisting arrest”, but the charge was later changed to “refusal to obey a lawful order.” Sears denies resisting arrest or disobeying any laws. A statement from the CHP and Sear’s version of events is in the original story below.

“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,” writes Funke-Bilu. 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.”

Sears responded with thanks: “The Mules would like to thank Mr. Ilan Funke-Bilu for representing the Mules and the support and energy received this past week from the Nation the Three Mules Nation. San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office will be declining to file a criminal complaint against the Mules, so our court appearance on March 23, 2020 will be unnecessary. Therefore, we are able to continue on our journey following the former Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach route east to Kern County.”

Updated story, Jan. 30:

California Highway Patrol issues press release on arrest of John Sears

Following media inquiries on the arrest of John Sears, who was traveling with mules in Paso Robles last week, the California Highway Patrol today issued a press release about the incident:

“On Jan. 23, 2020, the CHP San Luis Obispo Communications Center began getting several 911 calls of people reporting a man walking two mules eastbound in the middle of the westbound lane of Nacimiento Lake Road near Chimney Rock Road. CHP Dispatch received no less than seven separate calls from motorists reporting the man and his mules were an extreme traffic hazard and nearly causing collisions.mule man CHP

“A CHP officer responded to the location and upon arrival, observed the man, later identified as Mr. John Sears, leading two mules in the traffic lane. The mules were walking side by side and taking up a large portion of the traffic lane. Vehicles were being forced to go into the opposing lane and over double yellow lines in order to avoid Mr. Sears and his mules. Upon contact, Mr. Sears was asked to stay out of the traffic lane and on the shoulder. Mr. Sears became very argumentative and uncooperative but eventually moved out of the roadway.

“After several more calls of Mr. Sears and his mules creating a traffic hazard, the CHP officer returned and ordered Mr. Sears to stay out of the roadway. Mr. Sears stated he had no intention of walking on the shoulder and claimed he had a right to be in the roadway and it was everyone else’s responsibility to slow for him. Because Mr. Sears was neither riding nor driving the mules pursuant to the California Vehicle Code {CVC} he was considered a pedestrian and therefore required to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway pursuant to section 21954(a) CVC.

“Mr. Sears was given a lawful order to stay out of the roadway and he made it abundantly clear he would not obey that order. Mr. Sears was later observed walking in the traffic lane in violation of the lawful order given by the officer. In order to protect Mr. Sears, his animals, and the motoring public from the extreme safety hazard his actions were creating, the officer ultimately placed Mr. Sears under arrest. He was subsequently booked into SLO County jail where he remained until being released the following morning on his own recognizance without posting any bail. The mules were turned over to SLO County Animal Control and returned to his custody after his release.”

Although Sears was initially booked into jail on a charge of resisting arrest, the CHP submitted a report San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office charging Sears with a violation of section 2800{a) VC, refusal to obey a lawful order. Sears denies resisting arrest or disobeying any laws. His version of events is in the original story below.

John Sears, 65, with his mules “Little Girl,” “Lady” and “Pepper.”

John Sears traveling through Paso Robles in 2013. File photo.

Original story, Jan. 25, 2020:

Nomad John Sears, who calls himself ‘Mule’, arrested by CHP

–John Cheney Sears, a nomadic man who calls himself “Mule” and travels the state with mules, was arrested Thursday by the California Highway Patrol.

Sears, 72, was traveling south towards Paso Robles on G14, between Mission San Antonio and Lake Nacimiento for about three hours with his mules, Little Girl and Ethel.

“We were walking along G14 toward Paso Robles and CHP cruiser pulled up alongside, he’d been getting calls that we were walking in the road,” says Sears. “He asked me to do a favor and not walk on the road. My reply was that I have a right to walk on the road. I am not breaking any laws and I will continue to do so for the simple reason to repeat myself that I have the right to and there was no alternative to G14.”

“At that point, he left. We walked 10-15 minutes and he returned with another officer in another cruiser. He stopped in front of me, got out of his cruiser and told me I could not walk on the road. I was walking as far to the edge as possible. There was plenty of room for a passing motorist, slowing his automobile to an appropriate speed to pass us and they were doing so with no problem.”

“We bantered back and forth for a good period of time, then 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.”

mule man john sears, california

John Sears traveling with his mules on Jan. 11. Photo from Instagram.


“Well now, what was I to do? There was no side roads to take off on, there was nothing but G14. and there was no cell phone service to call for assistance. we had no choice to stand there to hell freeze over or to continue to walk to pr on G14. so we did just that.”

“About 10 minutes more the officer then returned got out of his cruiser approached me, stepped in front of me and said I was under arrest. He asked me to put my hands behind my back which I did, then handcuffed me, took me to his cruiser, opened the door, asked me get inside, which I did. I offered absolutely no resistance.”

“I was not charged with walking on the highway because I had every right to be there. I have been charged with obstruction resisting arrest which I did not resist arrest.”

CHP arrested Sears and he was booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on California Penal Code, 148(A), resisting arrest. His bond was set at $5,000. CHP was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

He was released from jail and is set to appear on March 23, 2020, at 8 a.m. in the San Luis Obispo Courthouse, annex room 220, at 1050 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo, Calif., 93408.

His two traveling companions were being held at San Luis Obispo Animal Services. Sears created a GoFundMe account to help pay for the mules’ release. He quickly exceeded his goal, raising $500, and has the funds needed.

3 mules

People often stop to take a picture with Sears, right, and his mules. Photo from Instagram.


Sears’ travels throughout the Western U.S. have been documented for decades by newspapers and media reports. He tends to travel south toward San Diego for the winter months, and north past Sacramento for the summer months. He documents some of his travels on a website,

“We are mules,” says Sears. “We are from the outside. We live outside all day, every day. Where are we going? Nowhere. We’re here: the outside, the web of life, the beautiful earth, a place like no other. We have come to this place, a place of golden sparkling light, a place for anybody and everybody. Give your faith, hope, and energy to this place at which time you connect to it and receive the magic and endless possibility of infinity. As you walk in this place with these mules you spread the awareness that this beautiful earth, like no other, can only be protected by the way we live one day at a time”

A movie about Sears, “Mule  – Living on the Outside” is a documentary of his journies in progress.




About the author: News Staff

The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at