Longtime Lynden political leader arrested, accused of domestic violence

The executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce, who is also a city council member, has been arrested and charged with a felony after allegedly strangling a family member.

Gary Alan Vis, 58, was charged Monday, Jan. 22 in Whatcom County Superior Court with one count of second-degree assault (domestic violence).

The charge, which is a felony, accuses Vis of assaulting a family member by strangulation and includes a domestic violence enhancement, according to court records.

Vis was arrested at his home in the 8800 block of Bender Road in Lynden shortly after midnight on Sunday, Jan. 21. He was released the following day shortly before 7:30 p.m. on his personal recognizance, according to Whatcom County Jail records.

Vis’ arrest was first reported by the Lynden Tribune.

Political roles

For more than 17 years, Vis has been the head of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce, which issued a statement Wednesday morning.

”The board was made aware of an incident involving Gary Vis, the Lynden Chamber of Commerce’s executive director,” a post of the chamber’s Facebook page states. “The Vis family are in our thoughts and prayers at this time. We are in the process of gathering more information and will have no further comment at this point,” the chamber said on Facebook.

Vis has been a prominent member of the community for more than 30 years, championing civic events such as the annual Christmas parade and the Northwest Washington Fair. He was also a leader in the effort to build the Million Smiles Playground at City Park in 2006, according to his LinkedIn resume.

Vis ran unopposed for the Lynden City Council in November, winning nearly 100% of the vote. He also served on the council from 1998 to 2006.

The Bellingham Herald has reached out to the Lynden mayor and Lynden City Council members for comment.

The incident

Around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20, the Lynden Police Department was called to a domestic disturbance in the 8800 block of Bender Road in Lynden.

A woman had called 911 to report that she had been strangled by a family member, later identified as Vis, according to court records.

When Lynden police arrived and learned Vis was the suspect, they contacted the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, in order to be careful and avoid any conflicts of interest, Lynden Police Chief Steve Taylor told The Herald on Wednesday.

Lynden police then worked to keep the peace until sheriff’s deputies arrived, Taylor said.

When deputies arrived, the woman told them that she and Vis had a verbal argument. The woman said she had picked up a portable charger and began squeezing it, which angered Vis.

The woman told deputies Vis put her in a chokehold and restricted her breathing for roughly one minute. The woman told deputies she was screaming for Vis to let go and that Vis’ arm “had to be pried from her throat” by another a family member, court documents state.

The family member who removed Vis’ arm from the woman’s throat corroborated the woman’s account of the incident.

Vis allegedly admitted to deputies that he had put his arm around the woman’s throat “for what he believed to be around two minutes,” according to court records.

The Herald has reached out to the sheriff’s office for more information.

Resources

Brigid Collins Family Support Center: 360-734-4616, brigidcollins.org

Brigid Collins Family Support Center professionals are on-call between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, to answer questions about children, families, abuse prevention or treatment at (360) 734-4616.

Child Protective Services: Washington state hotline for reporting child abuse and neglect, 866-829-2153.

Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services: 24-hour Help Line: 360-715-1563, Email: info@dvsas.org.

Lummi Victims of Crime: 360-312-2015.

Tl’ils Ta’á’altha Victims of Crime: 360-325-3310 or nooksacktribe.org/departments/youth-family-services/tlils-taaaltha-victims-of-crime-program/

Bellingham Police: You can call anonymously at 360-778-8611, or go online at cob.org/tips.

WWU Consultation and Sexual Assault Support Survivor Advocacy Services: 360-650-3700 or wp.wwu.edu/sexualviolence/.

If you or a child is in immediate danger, call 911 and make a report to law enforcement.

To report child abuse or neglect call 1-866-END HARM.