Is being able to talk evidence that you can breathe?
Asthma guidelines (the victim was asthmatic) say you might talk a little even if you can't breathe enough:
The Asthma emergency page from "Athsma Australia" says that symptoms of a "life-threatening" emergency include:
Gasping for breath
Unable to speak or 1-2 words per breath
Confused or exhausted
May no longer have wheeze or cough
Not responding to reliever medication
IMO being able to say "I can't breathe" is compatible with "1-2 words per breath" symptom.
When to seek emergency medical treatment on the Asthma attack page of the Mayo Clinic says,
Seek medical attention right away if you have signs or symptoms of a
serious asthma attack, which include:
- Severe breathlessness or wheezing, especially at night or in the early morning
- The inability to speak more than short phrases due to shortness of breath
- Having to strain your chest muscles to breathe
- Low peak flow readings when you use a peak flow meter
Again, IMO I would characterize "I can't breathe" as "a short phrase".
What does 'choked and couldn't breathe' mean?
Comments below this answer suggests misunderstandings about the word "choke" (in the question and in the actual event).
- Wikipedia says that there are two kinds of choke-hold (i.e. "air choke", and "blood choke")
This BBC article suggests that use of the word "chokehold" in a police/reporting context is ambiguous, and could mean either: Eric Garner death: What next for the chokehold?
Choking is also a general/imprecise term for non-specific asphyxiation
When I watched the video it seemed to me that:
- He said he couldn't breathe, after being taken to the ground.
- While (as long as) the alleged choke-hold was being applied, which was for about 10 seconds, he said nothing intelligible/recorded.
That's consistent with the news report (note the word "after" in the following report):
A 400-pound asthmatic Staten Island dad died Thursday after a cop put him in a chokehold and other officers appeared to slam his head against the sidewalk, video of the incident shows.
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Eric Garner, 43, repeatedly screamed after at least five NYPD officers took him down in front of a Tompkinsville beauty supply store when he balked at being handcuffed.
Within moments Garner, a married father of six children with two grandchildren, stopped struggling and appeared to be unconscious as police called paramedics to the scene.
I don't want my interpretation of the video to be part of this answer, but I say this in order to explain a limit/limitation of my answer.
When I answer "yes" (i.e. that it's possible that he couldn't breathe enough, that he was "choking" even though he could say a few words) that is because, IMO:
The victim may still have "been choking" even while he was no longer "being choked", while he was complaining that he couldn't breathe.
"Choking" does not necessarily mean "continuous/deliberate compression of the trachea".
That isn't want the question is asking (the question doesn't presume that interpretation of choking)
If the question did imply/require that interpretation of choking, then this answer wouldn't be relevant.
IMO the question is asking about "choking" as a synonym for "asphyxiating".
The victim was asthmatic.