Janna Marlene Wood was with the Shakopee Police Department just six months when Halloween rolled around in 2013. Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate walked into the station that day and stopped in his tracks. There was Wood dressed head to toe in costume.
“I’m Janna Banana. Deal with it,” Tate said she told him. “She spent the whole day walking around the police department dressed as a banana. She was always just fun. You always felt good when you were around her.”
Hired as Shakopee Police Department’s first crime prevention specialist four years ago, Wood dug in, teaching stoic officers that it was OK to post photos on Facebook so the community could see them playing softball, taking kids shopping, feeding the hungry and running marathons. The outreach made officers more relatable.
The criminal justice graduate from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls also used social media and workshops to teach police and residents about background checks, internet safety, tax scams, antibullying campaigns and Shakopee’s Citizen Police Academy. For her efforts, she was named Minnesota’s Crime Prevention Specialist of the Year in 2014.
“Her excellent work was recognized far beyond Shakopee,” Tate said. “She really did a lot to change how police across the state communicate with the public through social media. She left more of a legacy in four years than most people do in decades. We will miss her each and every day.”
Wood died suddenly Feb. 5 from a ruptured blood clot in the brain. She was 28 years old and 13 weeks pregnant. She and husband Erik were delighted at the prospect of starting a family after losing twin daughters plus another baby to stillbirths and miscarriages last year.
But hopes were dashed when headaches and an MRI revealed the blood clots.
“It’s pretty rough. We were best friends,” said her mother, Tracy D’Andrea. “She loved movies, playing board games and getting together with family and friends. She was all about fundraising for special causes. She did walks for animals, the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics and events for the hungry. She was the most selfless person I know. If everyone had a Janna, the world would be a kind, kind place to live.”
Wood, who grew up in Oakdale and lived in Richfield, is survived by Erik, her college sweetheart and husband of nearly two years; parents Tracy D’Andrea and Vern Grassel; grandfather Bob D’Andrea; siblings Christopher, Amanda and Alicia, and an extended family of police and community. A service was held Sunday at the Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center in Stillwater.
A GoFundMe account is helping with medical and funeral costs. “The support is unbelievable,” Tracy D’Andrea said through tears.
“We are talking about a major void she left here,” Tate said. “That is the kind of heart Janna had. If there was a problem, she would go and address it.”
Frustrated that Shakopee’s annual toy-shopping trip with police officers always ended with the children just buying warm clothes, Wood launched a coat, boot and hat drive. So last year, every child got warm clothes and toys. When organizing the department’s Loaves & Fishes event, Wood threw in a diaper drive for good measure.
Two years ago, Wood also launched the department’s first Dog-Walker-Watch Walk. Despite skepticism, she invited Shakopee residents to bring their dogs to the police station for a neighborhood walk. The idea? Teach dog walkers to look around and call police if they see something odd. A dog lover with two chihuahuas, Wood figured two- and four-legged walkers would come in droves. And they did.
“We had so many dogs in here. Every breed known to man!” recalled Tate. “I was concerned with how this might turn out. But she would say, ‘Everything’s going to be OK.’ She was good at calming me down.”