Violence, he says, has become so commonplace, people are desensitized to death.
"I don't think we take it as hard as we should," he says. "When someone gets killed, there should be an uproar. But the ambulance comes, scoops them up, nobody says anything and it's back to business."
Toler's own life was shaped by guns and drugs. "In the early '90s, I was going to funerals back to back to back," he says. "When you're out there, you think you pretty much got it coming. It's a kill-or-be-killed mentality."
As he tells it, he was in a gang (in another neighborhood) from ages 9 to 30, including a six-year prison stint for involuntary manslaughter. He was shot six times, he says; he lifts a gray stocking cap pulled low over his head and presses a thumb over his right eyebrow to show the spot where a bullet struck. "I was blessed" to survive, he says, with a gap-toothed smile.
He was once so notorious, Toler says, that one day about a decade ago his grandmother returned from a community policing gathering and began crying. "She said, 'The whole meeting was about you. ... You and your friends are destroying the whole community. ... You're my grandson, but they're talking about you like you're an animal.'"
Now a 35-year-old father of four, Toler says he decided to go straight about five years ago. He knows some police don't believe his transformation. He regrets things he's done, he says, and for a time had trouble sleeping. "Life has its way of getting back at you one way or another," he says. "I believe in the law of reciprocity."
Toler's message to a new generation on the streets: I keep asking them,' What's the net worth on your life? There is no price.... You only get one. It's not a video game.'"
"You get some guys who listen," Toler says, "and some who really don't care. ... They say, 'I'm going to die anyway.'"
Two blocks east in another storefront on 79th, Carlos Nelson works to bring a different kind of stability to Gresham.
As head of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corp., he lures businesses to a community that despite its problems, has well-established merchants and middle-class residents who've lived here for decades.
But Nelson, a 49-year-old engineering graduate raised in Gresham, sees changes since he was a kid, most notably the easy access to guns. "These aren't six-shooters," he says. "These are automatic weapons."
Police say they've seized more than 7,000 guns in arrests this year. Strict gun control measures in Chicago and Illinois have been tossed out by federal courts, most recently the state ban on carrying concealed weapons.
Nelson says he sees limited progress despite new crime-fighting approaches. "The Chicago police department is a lot like a rat on a wheel," he says. "They're getting nowhere. They put metal detectors in the schools but they don't put that same amount of money in to educate our kids."
But Nelson also believes the problem goes beyond policing. A cultural shift is needed, he says, to break the cycle of generations of young men seeing no options.
"It's almost like the walking dead," he says. "They're emotionless about shootings or death or drugs. They think that's all that's expected of them ... that they will die or end up in jail. That's a hell of an existence. That's truly sad."
AMONG THE LIVING: A 17-year-old hit in the leg, wrist and foot while in a park. A 13-year-old struck in the back while riding his bicycle, A 38-year-old shot in the face while driving.
Cerria McComb tried to run when the bullet exploded in her leg, but she didn't get far.
Someone heard her screams, her mother says, and rushed outside to help her make a call.
"Mommy, mommy, I've been shot!" Cerria cried into the phone.
Bobbie McComb ran six blocks, her husband outpacing her. "I'm panicking," she recalls. "I can't catch my breath. All I could think of was I didn't want it to be the last time I heard her voice, the last time I saw her."