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Police gather at the scene of a double homicide at the Royal Oak Sushi House after the bodies of a man and woman were discovered inside the restaurant in Burnaby, British Columbia, Monday, May 28, 2012.Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail

British Columbians are no strangers to gun violence. Waves of brazen shootings over the past several years have made clear that bullets can fly any time, any place.

But the lack of motive made a double homicide at a sushi restaurant Sunday night all the more puzzling. The victims – including the restaurant's owner – were not known to police and the killings did not appear to be gang-related. Police could not say whether anything was stolen, and a 911 call was made only when a passerby spotted a body – not after the presumably loud gunshots rang out in the busy neighbourhood, just a few blocks from the province's largest shopping mall.

The enormity of the task police face was clear at the scene of the shooting in Burnaby on Monday. Police cordoned off an entire block and said they could remain until the following morning. Forensic investigators entered the restaurant in white suits, while other officers worked in teams outside, canvassing rooftops and streets for any shred of evidence.

"We are still currently trying to determine what the motive is," Sergeant Jennifer Pound, spokeswoman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, told reporters.

One of the victims was identified as Huong (Andy) Tran, the 36-year-old owner of Royal Oak Sushi House. The identity of the second victim was not released because police were still trying to notify her next of kin. Sgt. Pound would not disclose the relationship between the two victims, and said only that the woman was connected to the business.

Curious onlookers arrived at the scene throughout the day, expressing their dismay at the tragic outcome.

Brittany Read, who works nearby, said she frequently visited the restaurant and nothing seemed amiss. "There were always families and children in there so it didn't seem anything would be high on the map, for something like that to happen," she said. Ms. Read described restaurant staff as friendly, and the killings as shocking.

Queenie Yu, who lives nearby, said she didn't hear any gunshots. She said her first indication of trouble was the wail of sirens.

"I definitely heard police sirens, but I didn't think they would be stopping here. I just thought they would be passing by," she said.

Ms. Yu said the killings left her somewhat nervous. "But I guess it happens everywhere, so there's nothing I can do," she added.

Sgt. Pound was joined at one of the two media briefings by Superintendent Derren Lench, acting officer in charge of Burnaby RCMP. Supt. Lench said he wanted to reassure Burnaby residents their community is safe, and everything that can be done to solve the killings will be done.

"The Burnaby RCMP detachment is deeply disturbed by these horrific murders of these two individuals," he said.

Police were first called to the restaurant around 9:30 p.m. after the passerby spotted a body. They discovered the second body when they entered the premises.

Royal Oak Sushi House is located a short walk from the Metrotown shopping mall, in a neighbourhood that's home to businesses and residences.

Sgt. Pound said police are still trying to determine when the shots were fired, and if the restaurant was open at the time. On Monday, the neon "open" light was on.

He urged anyone who might have information about the crime to contact police.