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James Burke

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James Burke
Name James Burke
Gender Male
Occupation Former school board member
Pathology Serial Bomber
School Bomber (once)
Arsonist (once)
Modus Operandi Various bombs
Arson fire (once)
No. of Victims 1 killed
10+ attempted
1 victimless arson
Status Incarcerated
Portrayed By Grinnell Morris
First Appearance Hero Worship

"I'm the one with the bomb."

James Burke is a serial bomber (and, at one point, an arsonist) who appeared in Season Ten in Criminal Minds.


Burke was once a member with the Indianapolis school board and a prominent member of the community. However, he was also heavily narcissistic and saw himself as God. In 2014, he was found having a sexual relationship with a high-school student at an ethanol plant. The relationship was technically legal, as the student was eighteen at the time, and no charges were filed. However, Burke lost his job since he violated his contract. As a result, he snapped, seeing this event as a challenge against his purported authority, and swore revenge against Indianapolis. A month after being fired, he started a fire at the ethanol plant where his relationship was exposed. The following year, he set a bomb at Delancy Elementary School to spark panic among the school board. Burke did not intend to kill anyone during both incidents; while the arson didn't claim any casualties, the school bombing claimed the life of a custodian working the graveyard shift. The latter incident also attracted the attention of Allen Archer, who decided to emulate it so he could save lives and become a hero.

Hero WorshipEdit

Burke is first seen in his hideout making a bomb while looking at the news about Allen's bombing of the coffee shop. He then looks at the map of the Indianapolis locations he plans to bomb. The following night, he goes after Allen by placing a bomb in the latter's car. The bomb is connected to the brake pedal and left Allen trapped when he stepped inside the car, but the bomb is defused by Morgan. The following day, Burke pays a man to distract the BAU with a fake bomb inside a van while he plants a real bomb in an electrical room to blow up an award ceremony for Allen. JJ and Reid find Burke and they try to talk him down from setting off the bomb, with Reid telling him that he is a narcissist who craved power for his whole life and snapped when he lost it. At first, Burke doesn't listen, but Reid manages to get through to him by telling him that if he dies, he will never have the chance to take credit for the bombs that he built and by putting down the bomb, the BAU can tell everyone what Burke did and why he did it. This convinces Burke and he surrenders.

Modus OperandiEdit

Burke initially targeted locations that were connected to him before he lost his job. First, he somehow set a fire at the ethanol plant where his sexual relationship with the student was discovered. Then, he planted a homemade bomb made of TNT at Delancy Elementary School and left it to detonate. He started the ethanol plant fire and planted the school bomb at the electrical rooms, presumably to make both incidents appear as accidents.

When his plans to continue attacking Indianapolis locations were sidetracked by Allen Archer's copycat bomb, Burke switched his focus to Allen, his confidence increasing with it. During both attempts on Allen's life, he used homemade bombs made from nitroglycerin (which were more deadlier than the TNT bomb used at the school), undoubtedly to ensure Archer would die from the explosions. He wired the first bomb to the parking brake of Allen's car, so it would be armed when he put his foot on it and then go off when he took his foot off the brake pedal. With the second bomb, he planned to set it off in the electrical room of Indianapolis City Hall.


The unsub is a male ego-driven, personal cause bomber, meaning he needs to be the center of attention. It is important that the attempting bombing of Allen Archer be kept confidential; if the unsub sees media headlines that do not belong to him, he will become enraged. He wants the authorities to pay attention to him, even if it means targeting Allen for disrupting his intended message ("Look at me, fear me, I am God"). From the high amount of sophistication demonstrated in the bombings, the unsub is in his 30s to 40s. While TNT is easy to produce at home, nitroglycerin is harder to handle, meaning he is patient and has an eye for detail. He is also controlled, methodical, highly intelligent, and has a desire to witness his handiwork. He could have been seen on traffic cams or eyewitness camera footage of the coffee shop bombing. He might target more public spaces like outdoor malls, farmer's markets, and Monument Circle; the fact that he targeted an elementary school and a popular coffee chain means he wants no one to feel safe. It is inevitable that he will strike again, since a bomber with a God complex feels invulnerable. He should be appeased and communicated with, which is how he will be caught.

It was later realized the unsub was only responsible for the school bombing while the bombing at the coffee shop was committed by Allen. When he realized the bomb at the school killed Morton Truby, it gave him the confidence and urge to kill again, even outdo himself.

Known VictimsEdit

  • December 21, 2014: A victimless arson at an ethanol plant
  • 2015:
    • January 27: Morton Truby (school custodian; accidentally killed in the Delancy Elementary School bombing)
    • February 3: The attempted Archer truck bombing (the bomb was defused):
    • February 4: The attempted award ceremony bombing (the bombing was stopped by JJ and Reid):
  • Note: A map owned by Burke can be seen in his room, which shows prominent Indianapolis locations circled, indicating that he planned to target those locations in presumably victimless bombings. The locations were:
    • The Indianapolis city hall
    • Monument Circle
    • The Indiana World War Memorial Plaza
    • The Indianapolis chamber of commerce
    • The Indiana State Museum


  • Burke is similar to Randy Slade, a school shooter and bomber who appeared in Season Seven. Like Slade, he was a narcissist who saw himself as God, and he also bombed a school in a deadly attack.


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