SES Mateo "Matt" Cruz is the new BAU Section Chief, the direct superior to SSA Aaron Hotchner, and later SSA Emily Prentiss. He is the replacement of deceased Section Chief Erin Strauss and a recurring character on Criminal Minds.
Cruz grew up in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and, after being honorably discharged, he joined the FBI in 1998. At some point, he also served as a Texas Ranger, becoming acquainted with Peter Coleman. During his work experience, he spent most of his career rising through the ranks while stationed at FBI Headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., until he reached the rank of Senior Executive Service (SES). In November 2013, Cruz was appointed Section Chief of the Behavioral Analysis Program at the Washington Field Office. In his last position, he was in charge of the Foreign Counter Intelligence Unit, and various joint task forces. Cruz met JJ in October 2010 in the Middle East, and nowadays, they frequently meet to exercise and socialize outside of work, but they are forced to keep their friendship a secret from the team as it originated from when both worked together for the U.S. State Department in a highly sensitive case that had yet to be closed. His new job lies in administration, but he is a longtime field agent who was suddenly and unexpectedly promoted, which allows for actual field experience. In 2013, following the death of the BAU Section Chief Erin Strauss at the hands of John Curtis, Cruz was promoted to replace her.
Cruz first appeared in the episodes "To Bear Witness" and "Strange Fruit", in which he played secondary roles. During those episodes, he oversaw the BAU's respective cases, showing complete confidence in their abilities. He also socializes with JJ, who disapproved of having to keep their relationship a secret. In the latter episode, JJ expressed fears that people might be thinking they are cheating on their spouses with each other.
In episode "200", the nature of JJ and Cruz's relationship was revealed: they worked together in Afghanistan in an operation to capture Osama bin Laden, which was code-named "Classified". Their teammates were senior CIA operative Michael Hastings and interrogation specialist/interpreter Tivon Askari, while the operation was overseen by Strauss and supervised by Undersecretary Rosemary Jackson. The four colleagues grew close to each other, although JJ's relationship with Askari was strained at times due to his hostile nature towards informants during interrogations. Cruz was especially close to JJ, to the point where she confided in him only when she found out that she was pregnant with her second baby with her then-partner Will. On April 24, 2011, a convoy carrying the four team members was ambushed by a terrorist squad, and Askari was revealed to be a traitor after killing a soldier, trying to kill Cruz, and then fleeing with the terrorists, while Hastings disappeared and was declared killed-in-action. Cruz would later tell JJ that she suffered a miscarriage because of an explosion from the ambush.
In the same episode, Cruz is abducted by a group of regime members led by Askari in the present day, and he is presented as collateral damage for JJ (who was also abducted) to give up her security codes to Integrity, a database containing important information relating to Operation: Classified, which Askari and the regime squad hope to sell to enemy countries of the U.S. Cruz is severely beaten and tortured as pressure for JJ to cave in, but she resists their efforts. Finally, Askari had one of his men stage Cruz's death, which causes JJ to go into an emotional breakdown and briefly hallucinate about her former teammate Emily Prentiss. The hallucination morphs into Cruz's tangible self, who, likely under Askari's orders, encourages her to give up her codes. When Askari tries to kill her, Cruz states that he will not reveal his own codes, as two codes are needed for access to Integrity. Hastings shows up, having faked his death, as he was also a traitor. When Hastings tries to rape JJ, Cruz caves in and gives up the codes, starting a downloading process on Hastings's cellphone. Hastings and several accomplices flee, while Askari kills a remaining accomplice before stabbing Cruz in the stomach. Askari is then shot dead by Hotch when he tries to slash JJ's throat. As Cruz is rescued, JJ and Prentiss pursue Hastings, who is eventually killed, and the downloading process is canceled as a result. Cruz is last seen being put into an ambulance, and JJ tells him to have a good rest.
Cruz reappeared in "Angels", where it is shown that he successfully recovered from his injuries. His absence after the events of "200" was also explained, for he had attracted attention from the CIA about his actions during his abduction (exposing the codes for Operation: Classified). He receives a phone call from Peter Coleman, which prompts him to send the BAU to Silverton, Texas, to investigate a case. He reappeared in "Demons", the direct follow-up to Angels, where he heard of Coleman's death during a shootout between authorities and a suspect, being visibly upset. He later travels to Silverton, Texas, with Garcia to assist the BAU in the case. He, along with the rest of the BAU, is endangered when they figure out that all of Coleman's deputies were responsible for the murders and have a tyrannical influence over Silverton. However, after JJ, Hotch, and Morgan kill several of the Deputies, including their leader, Cruz calls in the Texas Rangers to take over the investigation.
Cruz was first mentioned in "X" by Hotch that he is overseas on an unspecified affair. He briefly appeared in the episode "Beyond Borders", in which he filled International Unit Chief Jack Garrett in on the current case.
In stark contrast to his predecessor Strauss, Cruz shows immediate respect for and confidence in the BAU and their skills. He is also especially caring and protective of JJ, as demonstrated when he protested against the torture she was receiving and then was pressured to give up security codes after she was about to be raped.
- Like most BAU agents, his sidearm is a Glock 17.