By Trevor Anderson

USC Upstate Police Sergeant James Tesner

USC Upstate Police Sergeant James Tesner jumped into action Sunday, July 3, 2022, when he saw a vehicle driving in the wrong direction on Highway 9. Photo by Trevor Anderson.

Spartanburg, S.C. – A University of South Carolina Upstate Police sergeant is being hailed a hero for helping to save the life of a motorist who suffered a medical emergency on Sunday, July 3, 2022.

Sgt. James Tesner, 55, stopped a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction along Highway 9 in Boiling Springs and administered life-saving aid to the driver, who was unresponsive with no pulse and not breathing.

“Sgt. Tesner responded to a potentially hazardous situation and performed his duties flawlessly and with compassion to save the life of an individual in distress,” said David Myers, assistant chief of police at USC Upstate. “This is one of the true values and goals of every police officer for which few are ever recognized.”

Tesner was on his lunch break and driving his patrol car at 11:30 a.m. near the intersection of Highway 9 and 4th Street when a citizen flagged him down and reported a vehicle heading the wrong direction on the highway. He located the vehicle and observed that the driver appeared to be unconscious. In order to avoid a serious accident, Tesner placed his patrol vehicle in the path of the other car just before it came to a stop.

“Sgt. Tesner then made contact with the driver, but could not rouse him,” Myers said. “All of the doors were locked on the vehicle and the windows rolled up. As he was attempting to unlock the doors, the driver slumped over and went limp, causing his car to roll forward into Sgt. Tesner’s patrol vehicle.”

Tesner grabbed a tool from his vehicle and broke that passenger side window to gain access to the driver, according to Myers. He evaluated the driver and determined the man did not have a pulse and was not breathing. Tesner began to administer CPR and was subsequently able to detect a weak heart rate and shallow breathing.

While he was waiting for Emergency Medical Services to arrive, Tesner noticed the driver’s heartbeat and breathing again stopped. An off-duty Emergency Medical Technician who was on the scene helped Tesner continue give the man CPR until an ambulance arrived. EMS transported the driver to Spartanburg Memorial Hospital, where he was stabilized.

“This is an outstanding example of community policing and professional conduct in the safeguarding of all life regardless of jurisdictional boundaries,” Myers said.

Tesner praised the EMT. He said he typically avoids 4th Street, but for some reason he decided to take that route on Sunday.

“This was really unexpected,” Tesner said. “I didn’t get the EMT’s name, but we were really lucky she showed up.”

“Every once in a while you get a chance to do something that makes a difference,” he added. “That’s what I love about this job.”

Tesner has been with the USC Upstate Police Department since 2016.

Tesner and Chancellor Bennie L. Harris.

A native of Union, Tesner joined the U.S. Army in 1985 after he graduated from high school. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant before he was honorably discharged in 2017.

Tesner’s began policing with Union County Sheriff’s Office. His uncle, Troy Brewington, worked for USC Upstate as a police officer and fire marshal.

Tesner said one of the most rewarding parts of his job at the university is teaching Rape Aggression Defense, also known as R.A.D., to USC Upstate students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

“To see the students grow in confidence is really remarkable,” Tesner said. “It’s one of those things: You know you are making a difference because you can see it.”

Tesner said his advice for younger generations is simple.

“Do what you are passionate about and don’t be afraid to admit that you’re doing something you aren’t passionate about,” he said.

Tesner is an avid hunter and angler. He and his wife, Nicole, live in Jonesville. The couple has four children, James “Bo,” 34, Ricky, 32, Hayden, 16, and Riley, 12, and five grandchildren.

Myers has recommended Tesner receive a commendation for his actions.

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